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Harpsichord, wooden body decorated with black lacquer and gold edging, varnished wood soundboard with floral design, nameboard inscribed with: IONNES RUCKERS ME FECTI / ANTWERPIAE 1612. Hinged lid and doors. On modern wooden stand. An unknown English maker enlarged this instrument during the eighteenth century, but the original Ruckers soundboard, with its authemtic HR (Hans Rucker) rose and characteristic fruit and floral decoration with blue scalloped borders and arabesques, survives intact. New keys were installed prior to 1885, but it is unclear whether the replacement was occasioned by the removal by visitors of many of the old ones for souvenirs when it was on display at Windsor, or whether, even then, it had new coverings. This instrument was certainly owned by Queen Charlotte and appears in the catalogue of the sale of her effects at Christie's on 10 May 1819, as lot 124, 'a capital harpsichord by Rucker of Antwerp, in a japanned case.' It was purchased for £42 by the Prince Regent and sent to Carlton House where it was entered into the Receipts Ledger as: 'A Large Oldfashioned Harpsichord in a Black Japaned and Gold Case. Mounted on 8 Legs. A Book Stand to it with Plated Branches for Two Lights. The Harpsichord by Rucker of Antwerp.' Nothing further was recorded for sixty years until it was 'discovered' at Windsor Castle in 1883, without its stand or music desk. It was lent to the International Inventions Exhibition in 1885 and in the exhibition catalogue was labelled as perhaps 'the "large harpsichord" mentioned in Handel's will.' By the time the harpsichord was exhibited at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1912, the provenance given was that this harpsichord had been 'presented by Handel to George II'. This is not true, but the harpsichord has retained its connection to Handel and has, in the past, been attributed to that left by Handel, amongst other relics, to John Christopher Smith the elder (1683-1763). Smith bequeathed them to his son John Christopher Smith the Younger (1712-1795), the composer, organist and conductor, who had been Handel’s pupil and his amanuensis during the years of his blindness from 1752. In appreciation of a pension granted him by George III, Smith the younger presented his Handel MS., a bust of Roubillac, and the harpsichord to the king. The bust is in the Royal Collection and Handel’s manuscripts were presented to the British Museum (now British Library) by Her Majesty The Queen in 1957, but there is no specific connection between the harpsichord mentioned in the will and this instrument.

  • Date:
  • Maker:
    Ruckers, Hans I [Person]
  • Collection:
    Royal Collection Trust
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  • Materials:wood, ivory
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  • Repository:Royal Collection Trust
  • Measurements:91.5 x 86.5 x 66.7 cm (whole object)