Harp design: gilded ornament to modern

Harps aren’t furniture, they’re there to be played. But like pipe organs and harpsichords, there is a tradition of harps being decorative as well as incredible instruments. Marie Antoinette made the harp popular as a pastime for ladies, and this is what they were like back then:

Three 1700s harps

Those harps are only about 155cm/5′ tall and quite light. Over the years, harps got bigger and more complicated to play, it was more difficult for a young lady to become accomplished, and so the piano soon took pride of place in the parlour. Harps remained quite ornamented, but change came. First, there was the art deco styling of the Lyon and  Healy Salzedo model, introduced in 1928, designed by Witold Gordon in collaboration with the great harpist Carlos Salzedo.

Lyon & Healy Salzedo harp

And then, in 1957, this harp by German harpmakers Thurau, won a prize at the Trienniale di Milano. It was designed by Rainer Schütze, who was schooled in the Bauhaus way:

Bauhaus styled modern harp by Thurau

And Lyon & Healy introduced this harp, the Style 30, in 1958:

Lyon & Healy Style 30 harp

And not modernist, but you could say it’s either an interesting break with tradition, or it’s really going back to the idea of the harp as decorative sculpture; the Scolpita by Italian harpmakers Salvi:

Salvi Scolpita harp

Of course this post is just about how the harps look. If you want to know more about pedal harp construction and how they work, there’s a good introductory article at Harp Spectrum. Folk/Celtic/lever harps have their own story which I may do a post about later! And if you’re looking for harps and harp accessories, music, lessons, etc in Canberra? Head to the Harp Centre.



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This entry was posted on Friday, March 5th, 2010 at 12:42 am and is filed under Art, Harps. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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