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Grand piano

Grand piano

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1870 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Gamble, James, born 1837 - died 1911 (decorator)
    Wornum, Robert & Sons (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted pine case, with carved legs

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Adam Cole, a son of Sir Henry Cole

  • Museum number:

    W.11:1, 2-1913

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This grand piano was built in about 1870 by the leading English firm of Robert Wornum & Son for Sir Henry Cole (1808 - 1882), the first director of the South Kensington (now Victoria & Albert) Museum. James Gamble (1837 - 1911), who was responsible for much of the decoration of the museum between 1866 and 1889, designed the case of this piano, and his motifs include early musical instruments that had been acquired for the Museum under Cole's directorship. This instrument was exhibited at the International Exhibition held in London in 1871.

Place of Origin

London (made)


ca. 1870 (made)


Gamble, James, born 1837 - died 1911 (decorator)
Wornum, Robert & Sons (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Painted pine case, with carved legs

Marks and inscriptions

Robert Wornum & Sons, London
1) Decoration 2) Signature


Length: 206 cm, Width: 135.5 cm, Height: 35.1 cm, Width: 3235 mm Crate, Height: 1305 mm Crate, Depth: 1410 mm Crate, Weight: 328 kg Crate

Object history note

Put forward for de-accessioning and Board of Survey assessment in June 1938 (Registered File 38/2502, on Policy File VA200-1, Board of Survey, Furniture and Woodwork 1935-39. At the time, such a piece would have been severely out of fashion but it was decided to retain it.

Labels and date

GRAND PIANO, English, by Robert Wornum and Sons. about 1870.
The instrument is inscribed on the nameboard Robert Wornum & Sons, London. Pine case, painted with designs by John Gamble (1837 - 1911), which include Apollo, the dying Swan (reputed by legend only to sing on the point of death), and instruments acquired for the museum by Carl Engel.

The instrument has a range of seven octaves, AAA - a4, fitted with Robert Wornum's tape-check downward striking action, which he had developed on his upright pianos from about 1837 onwards.

Museum No.: W.11-1913
Keyboard catalogue No.: 54

This piano originally belonged to Lady Cole, wife of Sir Henry Cole, the first director of this Museum. He employed Gamble in various decorative schemes throughout the building. The piano was exhibited at the International Exhibition held in London in 1870.

This piano was given to the museum in 1913 by Adam Cole, a son of Sir Henry Cole. [pre September 2000]

Production Note

Attribution note: The piano itself was mass-produced but the decoration is unique to this particular instrument.




Carving; Painting; Joining

Subjects depicted

Oboes; Harp; Mandore; Tabor; Viol; Panpipes; Recorder


Musical instruments

Production Type

Mass produced


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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