George Washington ordered this top-of-the-line, double-manual harpsichord from London for his step-granddaughter Nelly Custis. It was shipped to Philadelphia in 1793 and then to Mount Vernon in 1797, where it stood in the "Common Parlour" (now called the Little Parlor). Nelly was regularly called upon to entertain family, friends and guests at the instrument. Its veneered case, featuring charming floral inlays above the keyboards, contains a complex plucking mechanism that survives in extraordinarily intact condition. A dazzling range of tonal effects can be produced through the adept use of knobs and pedals, which operate the harpsichord's stops and a Venetian swell. More

Date

1782-1793


People


Geography


Material/Technique

Mahogany, mahogany veneer, maple veneer (case interior above the soundboard and the jackrails), satinwood veneer, tulip veneer, purple heart bandings, light and dark wood stringing and inlays, beech (nuts), porcelain (plaque), limewood keys with ivory-topped naturals and ebony sharps, and maple key front moldings on the natural fronts, oak (case sides), pine (case bottom), spruce (soundboard), fir or spruce (framing), fir (hitchpin rail), pear or servicewood (slides and jacks), holly (jack tongues), Spanish cedar (swell), leather (plectra, probably original), brass (hinges and hardware), lead (weights), wool textile (dampers)


Dimensions

Overall: 39 in. x 40 in. x 93 in. (99.06 cm x 101.6 cm x 236.22 cm)


Credit

Bequest of Esther M. Lewis, 1859


Marks

Painted on oval porcelain plaque above keyboards (in black): "LONGMAN & BRODERIP/ Musical Instrument Makers/ No. 26, Cheapside & No. 13 Haymarket/ LONDON"
Stamped on wrestplank in front of the wrest pins: "735"; stamped in three places on the top of the trestle stand (on the front and back top stretchers and on top of the long stretcher)
Signed on the inside bottom of case under the lower keyboard (in large pencil script): "Hamilton/ No. 5", and on the inside of the case bottom under the soundboard: "Hamilton(e) Harpsichord"
Written in the bass no the underside of the wrestplank and on the upper and lower belly rails (in pencil): "3", and in the treble: "4"
Stamped on the back of the lower belly rail: "63"


Object Number

W-16


Colors


Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.
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