The Art Case Piano

The piano has always been a musical instrument first and foremost, but at the same time the need to win acceptance has meant its appearance has had to take account of its surroundings. So pianos have always reflected the furniture styles of their day. Once the internal layout of the piano, whether square, upright or grand, had become firmly established, the casework could be used to make an aesthetic statement. The true art-case piano is an art form in its own right.

Bosendorfer piano 1867 image Bösendorfer, Vienna 1867.This instrument is one of the world's most famous pianos, and is known as the 'Emperess Eugénie' Bösendorfer. It was designed by Viennese craftsman Hans Makart. The casework is mahogany, inlaid with kingwood, and the legs and the cherubs on the end-cheeks are hollow cast bronze.
Broadwood piano 1878 image

 Broadwood, London 1879. In 1879 the painter Edward Burne-Jones was asked by a friend, William Graham, to design a piano which he could give as a wedding present to his daughter Frances. Burne-Jones commissioned Broadwood to build a grand piano with a traditional harpsichord-like shape, supported by a trestle stand, that would be in keeping with the Arts and Crafts movement he was establishing with the craftsman and poet William Morris. Burne-Jones himself painted the lid, which shows mother earth.

Steinway Art Grand 1877 image Steinway, New York, circa 1877.This is one of the finest examples of the art-case piano. It is based on the7 1/4 octave Model D, and is made of burred walnut and satinwood. Known as a 'Centennial Grand', it was built in 1876, 100 years after the American Declaration of Independence.
The pictures and text in the Virtual Piano Museum are copied with permission from Piano by David Crombie, published by Backbeat Books. This book is a beautiful volume of pictures and piano history. See more about it on its Web Page.

Photos Copyright 1995 Balafon, used by permission. All rights reserved.

















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