Portable Irish harp

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

Object Place: Dublin, Ireland


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


Medium or Technique

Maple, spruce

Not On View


Europe, Musical Instruments



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.


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


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