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Royal piano made in 1790 sold for £13,500

It is not every day that a piano made for a king’s daughter comes onto the market but a square piano made in 1790 for Maria Luisa Borbon infanta of Spain was sold by Alcalá Subastas auctioneers in Madrid for £13,591 including premium on 15 March 2017.    Of small size, this piano measures under 42 inches in length and was made by Juan del Marmol in Saville Spain. The keyboard compass is C to f3 (4 ½ octaves).  Marmol was a highly-regarded piano maker and following a special instrument that he made in 1779 was awarded a pension by King Carlos III provided he employed two apprentices.   His pianos were based on the English design of instruments that started to be imported into Spain in the 1770’s.

The nameboard inscription reads: “Para la serenísima señora Doña María Luisa de Borbón Infanta de España. Año de 1790. No 571”.

A paper label attached to the soundboard gives the name Juan del Marmol.

The Auctioneers at first considered that the instrument was made for Maria Luisa Borbon (1745-1792) daughter of Carlos III but later gave this as Maria Luisa Borbon (1782-1824) daughter of Carlos IV. It is confusing when both daughters have the same name.  She would only have been 8 years old at the time but a piano of small size would have been appropriate for a child.  Maria Luisa was married at the age of thirteen in 1795 to her first cousin Louis, Hereditary Prince of Parma and became Queen of Etruria in 1801 and Duchess of Lucca in 1815.  The tuning key shown in the above image is of period design and may be the original supplied with the piano.

Maria Luisa of Spain, Queen of Etruria and Duchess of Lucca

It is known that Juan del Marmol made square pianos of small size as “travelling pianos”. These could be taken by their owners when they moved between properties and it has been suggested that this was the first that he made of these instruments.   The rarity and provenance of this piano no doubt led to keen bidding from an opening bid of 1200 Euros.   It is hoped that this piano has been bought by an institution and will be preserved in Spain.

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