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  • The MFA’s Musical Instruments Collection contains over 1,100 examples from around the world, ranging from ancient times to the twenty-first century. Explore a selection of harps from the Museum’s holdings.

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  • Harp

    about 1700

    Object Place: Germany

    Description

    Quadrangular soundbox. Back, sides, and soundboard of maple, with pairs of incised lines along all edges. Soundboard grain oriented vertically. Three pairs of soundholes in soundboard, each composed of circular pattern of smaller holes. Pillar of maple with U-shaped cross section. Neck of pearwood with shallow reeding along top and sides. String pegs in form of L-shaped brays (several modern replacements) of maple. Tuning pins of iron. Exact compass unknown, but possibly GG to c3 (thirty-two strings).

    Provenance

    Francis W. Galpin (1858-1945), Hatfield Regis, England; 1916, sold by Francis W. Galpin to William Lindsey (1858-1922), Boston, Massachusetts; 1916, gift of William Lindsey, in memory of his daughter, Leslie Lindsey Mason, to the MFA. (Accession Date: October 5, 1916)

    Credit Line

    Leslie Lindsey Mason Collection

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height 130.8 cm, width 45 cm, depth 20.4 cm (Height 51 1/2 in., width 17 11/16 in., depth 8 1/16 in.)

    Accession Number

    17.1785

    Medium or Technique

    Maple, pearwood

    On View

    Musical Instrument Gallery (Gallery 103D)

    Collections

    Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Hook harp

    late 18th or early 19th century

    Object Place: Bohemia

    Description

    Quadrangular soundbox. Back, sides, and soundboard of fir (Abies alba). Soundboard grain oriented horizontally. Three pairs of soundholes in soundboard, each composed of circular pattern of smaller holes. Two small feet of iron at rear lower edge of soundbox. Pillar of fir (Abies alba) with circular cross section; carved swags along both sides of top. Neck composed of two laminations of hardwood (possibly walnut). String pegs of wood stained black. Eleven U-shaped hooks of brass, positioned to raise pitch of F, C, f, b, c1, f1, b1, c2, f2, b2, and c3 one half step. Pitch names painted in white on neck by each string. Tuning pins of iron. Compass of BB to a3 (thirty-five strings).

    Provenance

    Francis W. Galpin (1858-1945), Hatfield Regis, England; 1916, sold by Francis W. Galpin to William Lindsey (1858-1922), Boston, Massachusetts; 1916, gift of William Lindsey, in memory of his daughter, Leslie Lindsey Mason, to the MFA. (Accession Date: October 5, 1916)

    Credit Line

    Leslie Lindsey Mason Collection

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height 149.8 cm, width 59.7 cm, depth 30 cm (Height 59 in., width 23 1/2 in., depth 11 13/16 in.)

    Accession Number

    17.1786

    Medium or Technique

    Fir, walnut

    Not On View

    Collections

    Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Harp (cláirseach)

    1734
    John Kelly (Irish, active 1726–1734)

    Object Place: Ireland

    Description

    Quadrangular soundbox (severely distorted from string tension). Sides and soundboard carved from single block of willow. Back of willow with two large circular soundholes, attached to soundbox with trenails. Sides of soundbox incised with scrolling foliage and flowers. Soundboard incised with three pairs of hexafoils. Strip of brass down center of soundboard, perforated for string attachment. Curved pillar of willow in T-shaped cross-section with scalloped edges and incised on front with thistle and tulip. Black, red, and white painted decoration. Pillar surmounted by carved head wearing crown. Neck of willow, with strips of brass along each side, perforated for tuning pins. Four strings attached to tuning pins in pillar. Tuning pins of brass. Exact compass unknown (thirty-seven strings).

    Inscription

    Incised on pillar: MADE - BY / IOHN - KELLY / FOR / THE REVD / CHARLES / BUNWORTH / BALTDANI / EL / 1734

    Provenance

    1734, made by artist for Reverend Charles Bunworth (d. about 1770), Rector of Buttevant, Baltdaniel, County Cork (Ireland); 1826, by descent to his granddaughter, Miss Dillon of Blackrock, near Cork; before 1854, by descent to his great-grandson, Thomas Crofton Croker (1798-1854); December 22, 1854, sold by Messrs. Puttick and Simpson, London, to Thomas Bateman (about 1821-1861), Lomberdale Hall, Derbyshire, England, where kept in a private museum; June 1893, sold by Messrs. Sotheby, Wilkinson, and Hodge to Francis W. Galpin (1858-1945), Hatfield Regis, England (lot no. 292); 1916, sold by Francis W. Galpin to William Lindsey (1858-1922), Boston, Massachusetts; 1916, gift of William Lindsey, in memory of his daughter, Leslie Lindsey Mason, to the MFA. (Accession Date: October 5, 1916)

    Credit Line

    Leslie Lindsey Mason Collection

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height 167.8 cm, width 78.6 cm, depth 33.4 cm (Height 66 1/16 in., width 30 15/16 in., depth 13 1/8 in.)

    Accession Number

    17.1787

    Medium or Technique

    Willow, brass

    Not On View

    Collections

    Europe, Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Triple harp (telyn deires)

    about 1750
    John Richard (Welsh, 1711–1789 Welsh)

    Object Place: Llanrwst, Wales

    Description

    Semi-cylindrical soundbox composed of nine ribs of maple (Acer pseudoplatanus). Soundboard of Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) with three pairs of circular soundholes and grain oriented vertically. Edges of soundboard trimmed with moldings of wood painted black. Pillar of maple (Acer pseudoplatanus) in oval-shaped cross-section, surmounted by carved scroll. Neck of maple (Acer pesudoplatanus) with fluted cap at soundbox joint. String pegs of wood stained black. Tuning pins of brass. Compass of GG to g3 (ninety-six strings in three rows).

    Inscription

    Stamped twice at back of neck: I R

    Provenance

    Francis W. Galpin (1858-1945), Hatfield Regis, England; 1916, sold by Francis W. Galpin to William Lindsey (1858-1922), Boston, Massachusetts; 1916, gift of William Lindsey, in memory of his daughter, Leslie Lindsey Mason, to the MFA. (Accession Date: October 5, 1916)

    Credit Line

    Leslie Lindsey Mason Collection

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height 185.4 cm, width 69.9 cm, depth 48.7 cm (Height 73 in., width 27 1/2 in., depth 19 3/16 in.)

    Accession Number

    17.1789

    Medium or Technique

    Maple, white pine

    Not On View

    Collections

    Europe, Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Portable Irish harp

    about 1820
    John Egan (Irish, active about 1804–1841)

    Object Place: Dublin, Ireland

    Description

    Semi-cylindrical soundbox of maple with three pairs of elongated oval soundholes on back. Soundboard of spruce with grain oriented horizontally. Curved pillar and neck of maple. Soundbox, pillar, and neck painted black and decorated with gold-colored stripes, foliage, shamrocks, roses, and thistles. String pegs of ebony. String-guide pins of brass. Blades of brass surrounding each string (except lowest two notes) for raising pitch one half step. Tuning pins of iron. Knobs of brass at bottom of pillar and side of neck for player’s strap. Sliding T-shaped bar of brass mounted inside body, extendable to support harp. Compass of AA to e3 (thirty-three strings) or E to b3.

    Inscription

    Painted on soundboard: JOHN EGAN / 30, Dawson St. / DUBLIN. / HARP MAKER / to his MAJESTY / GEORGE the 4th / and / the ROYAL FAMILY / No. 1938

    Provenance

    Before 1956, Joseph W. Hughes, Aughton, England; 1956, sold by Hughes to Burnham S. Colburn; by inheritance to his granddaughter, Caroline Gilbert, Hanover, New Hampshire; 2003, sold by Gilbert to the MFA. (Accession Date: September 17, 2003)

    Credit Line

    Frank B. Bemis Fund

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height 89.9 cm, width 53.1 cm, depth 22.4 cm (Height 35 3/8 in., width 20 7/8 in., depth 8 13/16 in.)

    Accession Number

    2003.618

    Medium or Technique

    Maple, spruce

    On View

    Musical Instrument Gallery (Gallery 103D)

    Collections

    Europe, Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
    Multimedia
    • audio

      MIAudio96.mp3

  • Harp (ceirnin)

    probably 19th century

    Object Place: Ireland

    Description

    Trapeziform soundbox. Sides and back of walnut (?). Sides decorated with flat scrolling foliage. Three oval soundholes in back. Soundboard of softwood with grain oriented horizontally. Curved pillar and neck composed of two laminations of hardwood. Tuning pins of iron. Exact compass unknown (twenty-five strings).

    Provenance

    Francis W. Galpin (1858-1945), Hatfield Regis, England; 1916, sold by Francis W. Galpin to William Lindsey (1858-1922), Boston, Massachusetts; 1916, gift of William Lindsey, in memory of his daughter, Leslie Lindsey Mason, to the MFA. (Accession Date: October 5, 1916)

    Credit Line

    Leslie Lindsey Mason Collection

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height 85.6 cm, width 48.5 cm, depth 20.6 cm (Height 33 11/16 in., width 19 1/8 in., depth 8 1/8 in.)

    Accession Number

    17.1788

    Medium or Technique

    Wood

    Not On View

    Collections

    Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Harp (after 15th-century German type)

    late 19th century

    Object Place: England

    Description

    Quadrangular soundbox. Back and sides carved from solid block of maple. Soundboard of maple with two pairs of rosettes of ivory. Curved pillar of maple with U-shaped cross section. Neck of maple. Pillar and neck both decorated with three diamond-shaped inlays of contrasting wood. String pegs of hardwood. Tuning pins of iron. Exact compass unknown (twenty-one strings).

    Provenance

    Francis W. Galpin (1858-1945), Hatfield Regis, England; 1916, sold by Francis W. Galpin to William Lindsey (1858-1922), Boston, Massachusetts; 1916, gift of William Lindsey, in memory of his daughter, Leslie Lindsey Mason, to the MFA. (Accession Date: October 5, 1916)

    Credit Line

    Leslie Lindsey Mason Collection

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height 61.8 cm, width 27.5 cm, depth 9.3 cm (Height 24 5/16 in., width 10 13/16 in., depth 3 11/16 in.)

    Accession Number

    17.1784

    Medium or Technique

    Wood

    Not On View

    Collections

    Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Pedal harp

    about 1785
    Godefroi Holtzman (French, active 1780–1794)

    Object Place: Paris, France

    Description

    Semi-cylindrical soundbox composed of seven ribs of maple. Soundboard of spruce (Picea) composed of two laminations with grain of outer surface oriented horizontally and grain of inner surface oriented vertically. Three pairs of soundholes in soundboard, each composed of circular pattern of six smaller holes. Soundboard painted with polychrome flowers, foliage, trophies with musical instruments, and bucolic scene. Pedalbox of maple carved with series of palm leaves. Four feet of iron. Carved pillar of maple with acanthus leaves at base, surmounted by large carved scroll, bouquet with ribbons, and acanthus leaves. Neck of maple decorated on both sides with Chinoiserie. All surfaces except soundboard ebonized with gilded highlights. Seven pedals of iron operating crochet mechanism; does not activate highest two strings. String pegs of ebony with dots of ivory. Tuning pins of iron. Compass of GG to b3 (thirty-eight strings).

    Inscription

    Printed label on inside of action cover and outside of pedalbox: HOLTZMAN, / Maître Luthier / Facteur de Harpes, / demeure dans la grand rue du Fauxbourg / Saint Antoine, chez un Marchand de Vin, / au Roi de Siam, près celle de Saint / Nicolas, au second; il vend & fournit / des Cordes de Naples & autres. / A PARIS.; in ink on soundboard: HOLZMAN A PARIS; in ink on inside of action cover and pedalbox: No. 5; stamped on action plate and trapwork: I S

    Provenance

    1918, gift of William Lindsey, Boston, Massachusetts, to the MFA. (Accession Date: March 21, 1918)

    Credit Line

    Leslie Lindsey Mason Collection

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height 156.8 cm, width 75.4 cm, depth 39.3 cm (Height 61 3/4 in., width 29 11/16 in., depth 15 1/2 in.)

    Accession Number

    18.30

    Medium or Technique

    Maple, spruce

    On View

    Musical Instrument Gallery (Gallery 103D)

    Collections

    Europe, Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
    Multimedia
    • audio

      MIAudio45.mp3

  • Pedal harp

    1788
    Jean-Henri Naderman (French, died in 1799 French)

    Object Place: Paris, France

    Description

    Semi-cylindrical soundbox composed of seven ribs of maple. Three diamond-shaped soundholes in center rib. Soundboard of spruce with grain oriented horizontally. Dark/light stringing along center and edges of soundboard. Rectangular inserts of ivory at string holes. Pedalbox of maple carved with acanthus leaves and reeding. Four iron feet. Carved pillar of maple with palm leaves at base, surmounted by large carved scroll decorated with stippling, acanthus leaves, laurel garlands, and foliate designs. Neck of maple. Amber varnish. Seven pedals of iron operating crochet mechanism; does not activate lowest or highest strings. String pegs of ebony. Tuning pins of iron. Compass of GG to b3 (thirty-eight strings).

    Inscription

    Printed label on inside of action cover: JH. NADERMAN / Mtre. Luthier Facteur de Harpe ordinaire du / Service de la Reine. Rue / d'Argenteüil Butte / St. Roch. a Paris ce 17 [handwritten: 1788]; stamped twice on neck: NADERMAN / A PARIS; in ink on inside of action cover and pedalbox and stamped on bottom of soundbox: 61; in pencil on inside of action cover and stamped on bottom of soundbox: 83; stamped on trapwork: 99D

    Provenance

    1974, gift of Elliot Gould Fish, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to the MFA. (Accession Date: February 13, 1974)

    Credit Line

    Gift of Eli Gould Fish, in honor of his daughter Maude Isabelle McKee Fish

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height 160.7 cm, width 81 cm, depth 38.4 cm (Height 63 1/4 in., width 31 7/8 in., depth 15 1/8 in.)

    Accession Number

    1974.57

    Medium or Technique

    Maple, spruce

    Not On View

    Collections

    Europe, Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Pedal harp

    about 1830
    Ignace Pleyel & Cie (French, born in 1807 French)

    Object Place: Paris, France

    Description

    Semi-cylindrical soundbox of hardwood veneered with maple. Soundboard composed of two laminations with grain of outer surface (figured hardwood) oriented vertically and grain of inner surface (spruce) oriented horizontally. Soundboard curves onto top of pedalbox. Pedalbox of gilded hardwood with acanthus leaves and scallop shell. Four feet, front two in form of lions’ paws. Pillar of maple with stopped fluting and gilded palm fronds at base, surmounted by round gilded capital with classical figures holding palm fronds, alternating with acanthus leaves, and other stylized foliate designs. Neck of maple with water-leaf molding along top of action plates. Soundbox, pillar, and neck outlined with gold stripes. Seven pedals of brass operating double-action fourchette mechanism; eighth pedal operates five swell panels on soundbox. String pegs of ebony with mother-of-pearl dots. Tuning pins of iron. Compass of EE to f3 (forty-four strings).

    Inscription

    Engraved on action plate: HARPES A DOUBLE MOUVEMENT PAR BREVET D'INVENTION / DE F. DIZI / Clle Pleyel & Cie / Facteurs du Roi / Rue Cadet No. 9 / à Paris; stamped inside access hatch and behind action: 97

    Provenance

    Before 1928, apparently owned by Annie Bigelow Lyons. By 1928, by descent to Mrs. Horatio Appleton Lamb (b. 1857), Boston; by 1952, by descent to her daughters, Miss Aimée (1893-1989) and Miss Rosamond (1898-1989) Lamb, Boston; 1952, gift of the Lamb sisters to the MFA. (Accession Date: June 12, 1952)

    Credit Line

    Gift of Miss Aimée and Miss Rosamond Lamb

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height 168 cm, width 88.8 cm, depth 46.7 cm (Height 66 1/8 in., width 34 15/16 in., depth 18 3/8 in.)

    Accession Number

    52.973

    Medium or Technique

    Maple, spruce

    Not On View

    Collections

    Europe, Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Pedal harp

    about 1865
    George Freemantle (American, 1804–1889 American)

    Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts, United States

    Description

    Semi-cylindrical soundbox of hardwood with four rectangular openings in back. Soundboard of spruce, with grain oriented essentially horizontally, but angled slightly upward from proper right to proper left. Pedalbox of hardwood. Four reeded feet of hardwood. Pillar of hardwood, fluted and surmounted by round capital. Floral decorations of molded plaster applied to upper and lower surfaces of column. Neck of hardwood with strap of steel screwed along length of upper edge. Later green, black, and gold paint on all exterior surfaces. Seven pedals of brass operating single-action fourchette mechanism. String pegs of ebony. Tuning pins of iron. Compass of EE to e3 (forty-three strings).

    Inscription

    Engraved on action plate: Geo. Freemantle, / MAKER, / Boston, Mass.

    Provenance

    2004, sold by Tepper Auction, New York, to Gerald Goodman, New York; 2004, sold by Goodman to the MFA. (Accession Date: June 23, 2004)

    Credit Line

    Museum purchase with funds donated by William and Deborah Elfers

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height 169.5 cm, width 84.6 cm, depth 40 cm (Height 66 3/4 in., width 33 5/16 in., depth 15 3/4 in.)

    Accession Number

    2004.247

    Medium or Technique

    Maple, spruce

    Not On View

    Collections

    Americas, Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Pedal harp (Gothic model)

    1895
    Erard and Co. (English, active 1792–1930s English)

    Object Place: London, England

    Description

    Semi-cylindrical soundbox of hardwood veneered with bird’s-eye maple; five elongated oval soundholes. Soundboard (replaced?) composed of two laminations with grain of outer surface (figured hardwood) oriented vertically and grain of inner surface (spruce) oriented horizontally. Soundboard edged with rosewood and decorated with gold stripes. Circular eyelets of ivory at string holes. Pedalbox of maple, gilded on front half. Four feet, front two in form of winged grotesques of gilded metal. Pillar of maple with gilded wood moldings and gilded bronze roundels and rosettes at lower end. Pillar surmounted by gilded hexagonal capitol with angel musicians and crowned figure holding banner (Virgin Mary?) set in ogival arches, gothic tracery, and acanthus leaves. Baldachin of gilded metal screwed to underside of capitol. Neck of maple with gilded molded edges and incised laurel sprays on back and sides of knee block. Pillar and neck outlined with incised gold stripes. Seven pedals of brass operating double-action fourchette mechanism. String pegs of ebony. Tuning pins of iron. Compass of CC to f3 (forty-six strings).

    Inscription

    Engraved on action plate: Sebastian and Pierre Erard's Patent No. 6625 / 18 Great Marlborough Street LONDON.; stamped on pedalbox; 6625

    Provenance

    1890s, sold by the maker to the parents of Raymah Dowse Gifford (1876-1971), 340 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts; after 1971, by inheritance to her sister, Rosamond Gifford (1910-1997); 2003, gift of the estate of Miss Rosamond Gifford to the MFA. (Accession Date: December 17, 2003)

    Credit Line

    Gift of the Estate of Miss Rosamond Gifford

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height 179.2 cm, width 96.6 cm, depth 46.7 cm (Height 70 9/16 in., width 38 1/16 in., depth 18 3/8 in.)

    Accession Number

    2003.752

    Medium or Technique

    Maple, spruce

    Not On View

    Collections

    Europe, Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Dital harp

    about 1820
    Invented by Edward Light (English, 1747–1832)

    Object Place: London, England

    Description

    Inscription

    In gold on upper surface of soundbox: Light, / Foley Place, / London, / Patent No. 167

    Provenance

    By 2007, Mallett & Son Antiques, Ltd., London, England; March 2007, sold by Mallett &Sons to Alan Rubin, Pelham Galleries, London, England; 2007, sold by Rubin to the MFA. (Accession Date: April 25, 2007)

    Credit Line

    Harriet Otis Cruft Fund

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height 86.4 cm, width 35.6 cm (Height 34 in., width 14 in.)

    Accession Number

    2007.327

    Medium or Technique

    Maple, spruce, ebony, ivory

    On View

    Musical Instrument Gallery (Gallery 103D)

    Collections

    Europe, Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
    Multimedia
    • audio

      MIAudio129.mp3

  • Dital harp

    about 1830
    J. Pfeiffer (active 1769–1839)

    Object Place: Paris, France

    Description

    Provenance

    1959, sold by Brodney Antiques, Boston, to Nellie Zimmer, Brookline, Massachusetts; 1978, gift of Zimmer to the MFA. (Accession Date: December 13, 1978)

    Credit Line

    Gift of Nellie Zimmer

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height 91 cm, width 50.5 cm, depth 11 cm (Height 35 13/16 in., width 19 7/8 in., depth 4 5/16 in.)

    Accession Number

    1978.488

    Medium or Technique

    Walnut, spruce

    Not On View

    Collections

    Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Lyre (rotte, after 5th to 7th-century German type)

    late 19th century

    Object Place: England

    Description

    Shallow box of oak with two extended arms, made of one piece of oak, hollowed at the lower half; thin oaken sound-board. Separate yoke joined with arms and held by oaken pins. Two narrow slits at the junction of the sound-board and arms for affixing the supporting cord which was attached to the arm of the player. Six gut strings, lower-end fastening type, attached to the boss projecting from the body; frontal type fastening of tuning ends; iron tuning pins inserted into the yoke, anterior type. Movable bridge. The original is in the Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde, Berlin.

    Provenance

    Francis W. Galpin (1858-1945), Hatfield Regis, England; 1916, sold by Francis W. Galpin to William Lindsey (1858-1922), Boston, Massachusetts; 1916, gift of William Lindsey, in memory of his daughter, Leslie Lindsey Mason, to the MFA. (Accession Date: October 5, 1916)

    Credit Line

    Leslie Lindsey Mason Collection

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height 78.5 cm, width 17.3 cm, depth 2.8 cm (Height 30 7/8 in., width 6 13/16 in., depth 1 1/8 in.)

    Accession Number

    17.1767

    Medium or Technique

    Oak

    Not On View

    Collections

    Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info

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