French, 18th century
By Pascal Taskin, Paris, 1778
Compass: five octaves, plus two notes, EE to f’’’.
Length 105.6 cm; width 89.5 cm; depth of case 20.0 cm; octave span 15.9 cm
One manuals and one choirs of strings at 4’ pitch
String scale: c’’ = 17.3 cm
The keyslip bears the inscription painted in vermillion: “* FAIT * PAR * PASCAL * TASKIN *A PARIS * 1778 *”. The case of softwood in Louis XVI style is trapezoidal in plan, with curved-in extensions of the sides serving as cheeks to the keywell. The outside of the case and lid are painted ivory and decorated with gold leaf. The inside of the case is also painted ivory, and is elaborately decorated with paintings executed with delicacy and detail; the largest of these paintings is of a fox caught in a trap, which is centered on the interior of the lid. The soundboard is painted with flowers, birds, and insects, with a detail of a hunting dog and a dead fox hanging from a bush in the right front corner. There is a painted rose, surrounded by a dense ring of flowers, with the intertwined initials “PT” and the date “1778” painted in the middle. The natural keys are covered with ebony and have arcaded fronts of pearwood;
the sharps are veneered with ivory. [Restored to playing condition]
As with objects on display here and in other collections, ownership of this spinet has been attributed to a famous personage—in this case, Marie Antoinette. Belle Skinner purchased the instrument from a woman who supplied letters by individuals testifying to the instrument’s having belonged to the ill-fated queen. Today we are skeptical about many of these testimonials since we know that European sellers often furnished documents of dubious authenticity to American collectors who were more attracted by the glamour of an object’s provenance than by the object itself. What is more important is that this spinet, made by the harpsichord maker to the king, is representative of the instruments that the queen and her court, including the most celebrated musicians of the time, had at their daily disposal.
The Belle Skinner Collection
Accession No. 4875.1960