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Irish harp

Irish harp

  • Place of origin:

    Ireland (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1800 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved, planed and joined wood, brass pins

  • Museum number:

    616-1872

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This Irish harp or Cláirseach dates from about 1800, a time when harp playing was enjoying a revival in Ireland. Following a famous gathering of harpists in Belfast in 1792, harp societies were formed in Belfast in 1808 and Dublin in 1809. Unlike the Welsh harp, which had three rows of strings, the Irish version has only one, and the traditional Irish technique is to play with fingernails as opposed to the flesh of the fingertips.

Physical description

Back and side separately constructed of an unidentified wood and now much worm-eaten. There are three soundholes in the back. The belly, of six pieces of pine, appears to be more recent. The post is curved in something of the old Irish manner. The neck is offset over to the right-hand side, and the strings are tuned on the right side of the neck by brass tuning pins. There are forty-one strings (the present strings of wire being modern replacements) held om the holes in the belly by small iron nails or toggles.' - Anthony Baines: Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria and Albert Museum - Part II: Non-keyboard insturments. (London, 1998), pp. 77 - 78.

Place of Origin

Ireland (made)

Date

ca. 1800 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved, planed and joined wood, brass pins

Dimensions

Height: 136 cm, Width: 30 cm maximum, Depth: 77 cm, Length: 7 cm shortest string length, Length: 110 cm longest string length

Object history note

This instrument was given to the South Kensington Museum in 1872 by The Ven. Archdeacon Saurin of Armagh.

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

Anthony Baines: Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria and Albert Museum - Part II: Non-keyboard insturments. (London, 1998), pp. 77 - 78.
Carl Engel: A Descrptive Catalogue of the Musical INstruments in the South Kensington Museum, (London, 1874), p. 240.

Labels and date

IRISH HARP
Irish; about 1800
Strung with forty-one strings, and tuned with the right hand, a feature unusual for Irish harps.

Non-keyboard Catalogue No.: 16/3
Unlike the Welsh triple harp, the Irish harp, made in the traditional way, has only one row of strings. Attempts have been made to link this instrument with a celebrated harpist active around 1820 named Arthur O' Neil.

616-1872

Given by The Ven. Archdeacon Saurin of Armagh. [pre September 2000]

Materials

Wood; Brass

Techniques

Carving; Planing; Joining

Categories

Musical instruments

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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