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Transverse flute

Transverse flute; white porcelain in five parts decorated with floral swags spiralling around body; ends and finger holes mounted with gilt copper: in wooden box covered with red leather and lined with black velvet. As well as the harpsichord and pianoforte, George III played the flute proficiently and clearly found it a consoling occupation; during his recovery at Kew in February 1789 he often played to himself. Frederick the Great of Prussia had earlier promoted the instrument and extended its repertoire with a number of his own compositions, and the 'transverse' flute, played horizontally rather than vertically, was known in the eighteenth century as the German flute. Around 1720, flutes began to be made in four sections, with interchangeable pieces known as corps de rechange which enabled the instrument to be played in a different key. Eighteenth-century flutes were almost invariably made of ebony, fruitwood or boxwood. In order to refine the tuning the maker could adjust the bore of the different sections (as is also possible with modern, metal instruments), whereas fired and glazed porcelain was not susceptible to such adjustment. This instrument must therefore have been made as something of a curiosity, although it produces a fine sound. An apparently identical instrument which must be by the same maker is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The porcelain and its decoration correspond with Meissen productions of around 1760, and the supposition that this instrument was made there is strengthened by a solitary reference in the work reports of the great Meissen modeller J.J. Kaendler (1706-75) to his having made a mould for a flute in February 1736. Catalogue entry adapted from George III & Queen Charlotte: Patronage, Collecting and Court Taste, London, 2004

  • Date:
  • Maker:
    ? Meissen Porcelain Factory
    Käendler, Johann Joachim
  • Collection:
    Royal Collection Trust
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  • Materials:porcelain, gilt copper, wood, leather
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  • Repository:Royal Collection Trust