Freddie Mercury: A World of His Own | At Home

Freddie Mercury: A World of His Own | At Home

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 524. A grand piano in a black lacquered and chinoiserie case by John Broadwood & Sons, no. 253218, circa 1934.

Freddie's Chinoiserie Grand Piano

A grand piano in a black lacquered and chinoiserie case by John Broadwood & Sons, no. 253218, circa 1934

Auction Closed

September 8, 06:42 PM GMT


40,000 - 60,000 GBP

Lot Details


A grand piano in a black lacquered and chinoiserie case by John Broadwood & Sons, no. 253218, circa 1934

4ft. 6in., decorated with figures in stylised landscapes, raised on square tapered legs, terminating in brass cappings and castors, together with a matching upholstered stool covered in black and gold fabric by The Gainsborough Silk Weaving Co. Ltd.

137 by 144 by 96cm., 54 by 56¾ by 37¾in.

This lot contains ivory. Commercial trade in ivory is regulated by multiple governments and international organisations around the world, including through prohibitions, restrictions and licensing and / or registration requirements. Different regulations apply to buyers, depending on their individual circumstances and the relevant auction / sale. Sotheby’s therefore recommends that, before taking any action in relation to a potential purchase or handling of an ivory item, buyers obtain advice on the regimes and requirements applicable to them. Sotheby’s will also not conduct any applications for buyers for exemption certificates, CITES licenses, registrations or similar that may be required, including the renewal or update of the same, or arrange for import or export permits needed for international shipping. A buyer’s inability or delay to obtain necessary documentation, or lawfully arrange the export or import of the lot will not justify sale cancellation or a delay in payment.

By repute Freddie acquired this piano in New York in the Spring of 1977.

There are extant photographs of Freddie seated at this instrument, notably at Stafford Terrace in the late 70s. Several of these atmospheric shots were taken by Didi Zill (b.1938) for the German magazine Bravo in 1978. After Stafford Terrace the piano moved to Garden Lodge and was placed in the bay window as the centrepiece of the Japanese room.

John Broadwood & Sons is one of the most significant producers of pianos and keyboard instruments in British history, having continually held the Royal Warrant since the reign of George II. When the firm was founded in 1728, it was under the name of the Swiss harpsichord-maker Burkat Shudi; it acquired its current name after his son-in-law, the Scottish cabinetmaker John Broadwood, took over the company in 1773.

Broadwood & Sons were at the forefront of the shift in taste from the harpsichord to the more complex pianoforte and continued to innovate with the mechanisms and construction of its pianos throughout the 19th century. Beethoven owned a six-octave Broadwood piano and Chopin also played on Broadwoods when performing in Britain. The Royal Family have patronized Broadwood & Sons for centuries, and one of the numerous Broadwoods in the Royal Collection can currently be seen in the Music Room of Buckingham Palace.

The distinctive use of Japanning (which adds a heavy lacquer finish) on Freddie’s Broadwood also links to a history of fine decoration on the firm’s pianos, which was usually in step with the prevailing aesthetic trends in furniture design. By the 1920s, Broadwood had incorporated significant revivalist and historicist elements into its decoration, harnessing the general uptake in interest for English antiques among collectors and decorators of the inter-war period. Some Broadwood pianos of the period feature the fluting and swags that are the signature of Robert Adam’s late 18th-century neoclassicism. In contrast, a 1924 miniature piano for Queen Mary’s dollhouse incorporates vernis martin panelling and a giltwood stand with claw-and-ball feet, both of which clearly gesture to furniture of the earlier 18th century. The whimsical Japanned decoration on this piece imitates prestigious Japanese lacquer of late 17th- and early 18thcentury furniture: something craftsman had done ever since encountering this beguiling material as the craze for all things Chinoiserie swept across 18th-century Europe.

This piano’s Japanned decoration is highly rare for a Broadwood piece and Freddie is likely to have chosen the highly decorative item to complement his suite of furniture by S. Hille & Co. from a similar period.