Wednesday 29 October 2014

A Most Dramatic Cláirseach

Not so long ago, we took a look at a harp once owned and cherished by Marie Antoinette. That post revealed that there are a lot of fans of the harp who visit the salon and even, unbeknown to me, one or two harpists as well. There is something romantic about a harp and to me it is, in some ways, the quintessential 18th century instrument so when a reader pointed me in the direction of this rather dramatic instrument, an Irish cláirseach, I had to feature it here.

John Kelly Harp

Marie Antoinette's harp was ornate, opulent and perfectly appointed to take its place at the Bourbon court. With its more Gothic leanings, this Irish instrument seems less suited to the delicate hands of the French queen and almost looks as though it should be taking pride of place in The Castle of Otranto.

The harp was made by instrument maker, John Kelly, in 1734 and is fashioned from willow and brass. It is carved with beautifully rendered depictions of flowers and trailing foliage though they are not picked out by paint and colour as on the queen's harp; likewise, there are no painted depictions of art any mythology here.

The instrument features another carving too, this time an inscription informing us that the unique harp was made for the Reverend Charles Bunworth of County Cork. Upon his death it passed down his line and was eventually sold in the Victorian era. Although some of the wood has warped and become misshapen, it remains a breathtaking piece of design and one that Reverent Bunworth must have been proud to own and play.

No comments: