Thursday, 2 October 2014

Marie Antoinette's Harp

It seems like a long time since I shared a tale of Marie Antoinette and of late, every visit to the iconic queen has been tinged with sadness so today seemed right for a more cheerful tale. I am a music lover and was a somewhat tentative musician in my youth, so it is a pleasure to introduce you to Marie Antoinette's harp, a treasured possession of the late monarch. She was a passionate musician and a talented one too and one of her greatest loves was entertaining at the harp.


Marie Antoinette's Harp
https://www.antiquesjournal.com/

Marie Antoinette was taught to play the harp by Philippe Joseph Hinner and she flourished. Naturally, the young lady needed a harp fit for a queen and in November 1774, instrument-maker Jean-Henri Naderman was happy to oblige. He created this fabulous harp and it was presented to Marie Antoinette on her nineteenth birthday in 1774, to the queen's utter delight. 

Richly decorated with flowers and featuring painted depictions of Minerva, the patroness of artists, the harp is truly a thing of beauty and no doubt suited Marie Antoinette to a tee! The harp served a practical purpose as the young mother would soothe her children to sleep by accompanying her own lullabies with its melody and she treasured it for many years.


Marie Antoinette playing the harp at the French Court by Jean-Baptiste André Gautier d'Agoty, 1777
Marie Antoinette playing the harp at the French Court by Jean-Baptiste André Gautier d'Agoty, 1777
After the death of the queen, the harp was passed through private hands and, happily, was well cared for. It now rests in the Musée municipal de Vendôme,Vendôme. The harp is played rarely, if ever, its gentle song silenced for now.

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

Pen and Sword
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)

5 comments:

Julian Rixon said...

How wonderful that the harp survives!

Catherine Curzon said...

And in good condition too; I would love to hear it played!

Sue Millard said...

as a player - I've literally just stood up from playing!... I too would love to hear how it would sound.

I imagine my own harp (which is a folk instrument, a "levered" harp a little smaller than this one) would sound similarly as they are both strung with gut and will have a similar string length and tension. Modern "concert" pedal harps are larger and heavier and strung much more tightly than Marie Antoinette's pedal harp would have been.

Catherine Curzon said...

I love the harp, such an elegant instrument. I think it's fantastic that you're a harpist!

Sue Millard said...

I'm a harper - the kind who would have played while the bard recited. Harpists are the posh kind who change key with their feet and play to be heard through an orchestra. (Common as muck, moi.) Marie's harp falls somewhere between the two styles.