Not currently on display at the V&A

Irish Harp

ca. 1800 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Carved, planed and joined wood, brass pins
Brief Description
Irish, 1800-1810
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.
Dimensions
  • Height: 136cm
  • Maximum width: 30cm
  • Depth: 77cm
  • Shortest string length length: 7cm
  • Longest string length length: 110cm
Gallery Label
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)
Object history
This instrument was given to the South Kensington Museum in 1872 by The Ven. Archdeacon Saurin of Armagh.
Summary
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.
Bibliographic References
  • 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.
Collection
Accession Number
616-1872

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record createdMay 16, 2001
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