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2010/42/1 Upright grand piano, timber, metal / ivory / fabric, made by W & M Stodart, London, England, 1809. Click to enlarge.

Upright grand piano by W & M Stodart

  • 1809
This upright grand bookcase piano is the first of its type to enter the Powerhouse Museum's collection and the earliest upright piano to be found in it. Dating from 1809 it is made by one of London's leading piano manufacturers, Matthew and William Stodart, and one of the few examples of this type of piano to be found in Australia. Apart from its rarity it is significant for its construction and design showing the transition from the standard horizontal grand piano to the cabinet piano, which then developed further into the upright piano known today.

This style of upright grand is also unique as it was purposely designed to incorporate a bookcase and therefore had the dual function of musical instrument and drawing room furniture. The style was first patented by William Stodart, one of the makers of this piano, in 1795. Rosamond Harding recounts that Joseph Haydn visited the Stodart shop and "expressed himself delighted with the new possibilities it foreshadowed in case-making and with the quality of tone." (Harding, p.63).

Unlike later upright pianos the design is similar to a horizontal grand which has been inverted to the vertical from the keyboard. This accounts for the great height of these instruments, having approximately the same string length as horizontal grand pianos of the time. The bookcase piano was an ornate instrument and expensive to buy as well as produce. This together with their unwieldy height and lack of portability as well as tuning difficulties contributed to bookcase grands only being produced up until about 1825. From this time the upright idea evolved further into the cabinet piano where the string and soundboard section of the piano was dropped to floor level thus reducing the height. This created other problems related to the position the hammers needed to be in to strike the strings to produce an optimum tone. This lead to further developments in piano action design to overcome the problem.

However, the trend to make pianos as ornate pieces of domestic furniture continued well into the 19th century when cabinet pianos would continue to be decorated with ornate fabric fronts or large mirrors, suitable for large domestic rooms.


WF Bradshaw & S Symons; The Pianoforte Past exhibition catalogue (Queen Street Galleries, Sydney, n.d.)

Martha Novak Clinkscale; Makers of the Piano 1700-1820 (Oxford University Press, 1993).

Rosamond E.M. Harding, The Piano-Forte, 2nd edition, (Gresham Books, England, 1978).

Stanley Sadie (ed); The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments (MacMillan, London, 1984)

Michael Lea
Curator, music & musical instruments
March 2010.


Object No.


Object Statement

Upright grand piano, timber, metal / ivory / fabric, made by W & M Stodart, London, England, 1809

Physical Description

Upright grand piano, timber, metal / ivory / fabric, made by W & M Stodart, London, England, 1809

Upright grand piano of 5 & 3/4 octaves from FF to c4. Triple strung throughout. Case in mahogany. The upper cabinet features two doors covered in light green pleated fabric forming a central rose in each door. Doors open to reveal strings, soundboard and case sides of piano. The space between the bent side of the piano and the right side of the cabinet has a series of wooden shelves installed for housing sheet music and books. The keyboard has ivory covered naturals and ebony sharps. An oval makers plaque with text in black flowing script is centrally located above the keyboard. A wooden music desk sits above this with folding music stand and sliding panels either side. A removable rectangular wooden fall board is fitted at the front and has two circular enamelled knobs each featuring a Greek style urn on a white ground surrounded by a brass ring border. Four tapered squared legs below keyboard are fitted with castors. Two pedals for una corda and damper are set into wooden housings extending from the bottom of piano and are widely spaced apart.

When doors are opened a modern made painted screen is revealed which covers the strings. The screen is made from painted fabric stretched over a wooden frame and features an image of a lyre.


Maker's plaque reads; "Patent / W & M Stodart / Maker's to their Majestys / and Royal Family / Golden Square / London / 1809"

Signature on rear of fall board; "Luigi [Novartaram]

In pencil on rear of nameboard; "Colin van der Lecq 15 - 5 - 05".

Inscription on back of screen; "BJB for WFB Jan 1998".



2480 mm


1100 mm


560 mm



  • 1809


William Stodart took out an English patent no:2028 for "An upright grand piano in the form of a bookcase." on 12 January 1795. This instrument, based on this patent, was made by Matthew and William Stodart in 1809. The modern screen was made and painted by Brian Barrow, Sydney.



Martha Novak Clinkscale notes that William & Matthew Stodart received a Royal privilege in about 1807. This is referred to on pianos as "Maker's to their Majestys and Royal Family". This piano was sourced in Italy in about 1981 and then became part the donor's historic keyboard collection.


Credit Line

Bequest of Mr William F Bradshaw, 2010

Acquisition Date

16 June 2010

Cite this Object


Upright grand piano by W & M Stodart 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 19 September 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Upright grand piano by W & M Stodart |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=19 September 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}


This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.