Square Piano thumbnail 1
Not currently on display at the V&A

Square Piano

1767 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Johannes Christopher Zumpe emigrated from Germany to England during the 1750s. He set up business as a piano maker in Princess Street in London in 1761. This is one of his well-known single or 'English action' pianofortes. Basically, it is a square pianoforte with a single action, the precursor of the modern piano. It is one of the earliest known examples of its type.

Johann Christian Bach (the son of Johann Sebastian Bach) gave the first public pianoforte recital in England in 1768, on an instrument that he had acquired from Zumpe. It is probable this recital that accelerated the popularity of the pianoforte. Johannes Christopher Zumpe made his fortune producing such pianos.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 4 parts.

  • Square Piano
  • Bag of Fragments
  • Base
  • Base
Materials and Techniques
Case and stand of mahogany, with stringing of boxwood or holly; the sharps are of ebony and the naturals are covered with ivory
Brief Description
Square piano on a separate stand, the case strictly rectangular, veneered in mahogany with stringing of holly.
Physical Description
Square piano on a separate stand, the case strictly rectangular, veneered in mahogany with stringing of holly. Above the keyboard is a long inlaid tablet with the name of the maker.
Dimensions
  • Case length: 126.5cm
  • Case width: 47cm
  • Case depth: 16.3cm
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
IOHANNES CHRISTOPHER ZUMPE LONDINI FECIT 1767 / PRINCESS STREET HANOVER SQUARE (1) Makers's mark; inscribed; on case; inscribing)
Gallery Label
SQUARE PIANO English Inscribed Johannes Christopher Zumpe Londini Fecit 1767/ Princess Street Hanover Square The case is made of mahogany with stringing of boxwood or holly. The sharps are ebony and the naturals covered with ivory. The instrument's range is fifty-five notes, GG - f3. Keyboard Catalogue No.: 29 Johannes Zumpe emigrated from Germany to England during the 1750s, setting up business as a piano maker in Princes street, London in 1761. He made a fortune selling square pianoes with a single or "English" action. C.P.E.Bach, son of the famous J.S.Bach, performed concerts, both making the instrument fashionableand increasing Zumpe's sales. He retired to Germany probably in about 1783. Zumpe developed a simple mechanism which enabled the hammers to strike the strings and was also easy to reproduce cheaply. However, they could bounce back and hit the strings again, while the key was still pressed down. In 1767 Thomas Grey observed that "the bass is not quite a piece with the treble, and the higher notes are somewhat dry and sticky". W.27-1928(pre September 2000)
Production
Date and location of manufacture are inscribed on the case.
Summary
Johannes Christopher Zumpe emigrated from Germany to England during the 1750s. He set up business as a piano maker in Princess Street in London in 1761. This is one of his well-known single or 'English action' pianofortes. Basically, it is a square pianoforte with a single action, the precursor of the modern piano. It is one of the earliest known examples of its type.



Johann Christian Bach (the son of Johann Sebastian Bach) gave the first public pianoforte recital in England in 1768, on an instrument that he had acquired from Zumpe. It is probable this recital that accelerated the popularity of the pianoforte. Johannes Christopher Zumpe made his fortune producing such pianos.
Bibliographic Reference
Tomlin, Maurice, Catalogue of Adam Period Furniture (London: HMSO for the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1972), cat. no. Y/1, p. 198
Collection
Accession Number
W.27:1 to :4-1928

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record createdMay 16, 2001
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