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  • Place of origin:

    Dublin (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1820 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Egan, John (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Japanned wood, with painted gold decoration

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

In about 1819, John Egan invented the 'Royal Portable' harp, which was made up of a hollow column at the front and a rounded resonator at the back, to project the sound. Instead of using pedals, Egan introduced hand-operated levers so as to produce sharps and flats, but he claimed that this instrument was suitable for all types of harp music. This light and portable version of the harp was comparatively easy to play, and enjoyed great popularity during the 1820s.

John Egan was active in Dublin between about 1804 and 1841 and advertised himself in 1822 as 'Portable Harp maker to the King'. During the early 1800s, harp playing enjoyed a revival in Ireland, and harp societies were established in Belfast in 1809 and in Dublin in 1810.

Place of Origin

Dublin (made)


ca. 1820 (made)


Egan, John (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Japanned wood, with painted gold decoration

Marks and inscriptions

J.Egan Inventor/ 31 Dawson St/ Dublin
1) Decoration 2) Signature; English; On the brass strip on the neck bearing the mechanism.; engraving


Height: 90 cm without base

Descriptive line

Irish, John Egan, 1820-25

of harp

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

London, Victoria & Albert Museum: Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria & Albert Museum. Part II, Anthony Baines: Non-keyboard instruments (London, 1998), pp. 82 - 83.

Labels and date

By John Egan, about 1820
Japanned with gold paint.
Inscribed J.Egan Inventor/ 31 Dawson St./ Dublin.

Non-Keyboard Catalogue No.: 16/15

John Egan, active from about 1804 until 1841, was a fashionable maker of Irish harps, and advertised himself as "Portable Harp maker to the King" (George IV) . He claimed that all pedal-harp music could be played on this instrument despite its size and limited ability to produce semi-tones.

332-1882 [pre September 2000]


Gold paint; Varnish; Brass; Wood


Painting; Japanning; Engraving


Musical instruments


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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