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2003/162/1 Grand piano, timber / metal / ivory / ebony, designed and made by William Stodart, London, England, 1822-1824. Click to enlarge.

Grand piano made by William Stodart

Designed by Stodart, William
Piano construction in Europe and the USA from about 1820 to the 1860s was a period of intense experimentation and development. The strength of the case was an important consideration given the increases in string tension during this period. This lead to structural changes such as the addition of wooden and metal braces. Keeping the piano in tune was also integral to this development. The compensating frame used by Stodart is extremely significant in the development of the piano. It shows that a practical method to maintain a constant string tension and hence stability of tuning was being developed 30 to 40 years before the full cast-iron frame was used in Europe. The latter became a standard feature of grand pianos from then to the present day.

The innovation consists of a series of metal rods which expand or contract to changes in temperature thus allowing the strings of the piano to also expand or contract at the same rate. The rods are made of two different metals, brass for the bass strings and iron or steel for the mid range and treble. It appears that the inventors of this particular system were employees of Stodart, James Thom and William Allen who were granted a patent for "Improvements in pianofortes" No 4431 on January 15 1820.

Although the rationale behind the system was essentially in terms of allowing for climatic fluctuations it also benefited greatly in strengthening the piano against the massive tension put on it by the strings. This was to become a major focus of piano makers until the invention of the full cast-iron frame with cross stringing introduced into Europe by Steinway in 1862.

This particular instrument is described in two publications (see below) by Martha Novak Clinkscale and Stewart Symons.

References:

Martha Novak Clinkscale; Makers of the Piano 1820-1860 (OUP, Oxford & New York, 1999 , p.361.)

Rosamond EM Harding; The Piano-Forte: its history traced to the Great Exhibition of 1851, (2nd Ed. Gresham Books, England, 1978 pp.202-208).

Stewart Symons, The Pianoforte Past, exhibition catalogue, Bradshaw Collection, Queen Street Galleries, Sydney, no date, p.14, item 17).

Thom and Allen Patent described in Patents For Inventions. Abridgements of Specifications Relating To Music and Musical Instruments, AD 1694-1866, 2nd Edition, London, 1871, (Facsimile edition, Tony Bingham, London, 1984, p.86).

Michael Lea
Curator, music & musical instruments
May 2003.

Summary

Object No.

2003/162/1

Object Statement

Grand piano, timber / metal / ivory / ebony, designed and made by William Stodart, London, England, 1822-1824

Physical Description

Grand piano of six and half octaves from CCC to f3 with a mahogany case. Compensating frame consisting of series of metal rods which expand and contract with changes in temperature, located above the strings of the instrument. The rods are of different metals - three of brass for the bass and seven of [iron, steel or copper] for the middle and treble range. The rods lie parallel to each other running the length of the piano and are positioned underneath a series of five wooden braces running across the piano. A folding music desk above the name board has moveable candle supports on either side. A pair of metal knobs are fixed to the name board and a keyhole is on the panel in front of the keyboard. Three [brass] decorative rings lock the lid along one side. They are in the shape of two faces linked by serpents. There are four turned legs with ebony banding on castors. The lyre has two pedals, one as a damper, the other as an una corda. The name board has the maker's name and address.

Marks

Engraved on name board within gold rectangle bordered by floral decorative motifs and clubs, 'Patent / William Stodart / Maker to His Majesty & the / Royal Family / Golden Square / London'

Serial No: stamped on wrest plank: 6069

Dimensions

Height

940 mm

Width

1220 mm

Production

Designed

Thom, James

Notes

The piano was designed by William Stodart from a traditional design. Compensating frame designed by James Thom and William Allen. A patent for this was taken out by Thom and Allen and granted on January 15 1820, No:4431 for "Improvement in pianofortes".

The piano was made by William Stodart of London 1822-1824.

The piano was made in 1822-1824.

History

Notes

The piano was bought by the donor at auction in London during the 1950s. It has been part of the donor's early keyboard collection of instruments in Sydney since then. Provenance prior to his acquisition is unknown.

This instrument is described in two publications;

Martha Novak Clinkscale; Makers of the Piano 1820-1860 (OUP, Oxford & New York, 1999 , p.361.)

Stewart Symons, The Pianoforte Past, exhibition catalogue, Bradshaw Collection, Queen Street Galleries, Sydney, no date, p.14, item 17).

Source

Credit Line

Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program by Mr W F Bradshaw, 2003

Acquisition Date

23 October 2003

Cite this Object

Harvard

Grand piano made by William Stodart 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 6 July 2020, <https://ma.as/319801>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/319801 |title=Grand piano made by William Stodart |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=6 July 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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