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Instruments of the Eighteenth Century Seminar: Dr Sarah Grant

February 14, 2018 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Instruments of the Eighteenth Century
5th week seminar, Wednesday 14th February, 1-2pm
Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, St Aldates

Instruments of Influence: the harp and female musical patronage at the late eighteenth-century French court of Marie-Antoinette
Dr Sarah Grant, Curator, Prints, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

This paper will discuss the eighteenth-century French revival of the harp and the significant role played in this phenomenon by Marie-Antoinette and her female circle of courtiers.

In the 1700s, a series of innovations helped to expand and improve the harp’s tonal range and the quality of its sound. While the instrument was played by both sexes it came very early on to be particularly associated with women. This vogue continued under Marie-Antoinette in whose inner circle all female courtiers took up the instrument, and a fashion soon developed for women to be painted with their harps. Paris was the centre for harp composition and ambitious composers naturally sought patrons from the nearby court at Versailles.

This paper will examine the influence of these female courtiers on the harp’s burgeoning popularity, through the patronage they extended, the compositions and dedicatory epistles they inspired, the portraits they commissioned, and the painted iconography of the instruments themselves. It will also consider how the harp became a badge of courtly allegiance, and its mastery, an asset of the greatest social expediency.

The talk will include a short demonstration on the Bate Collection’s glasschord.


Email alice.little@music.ox.ac.uk for info.
All welcome – no need to book in advance.


February 14, 2018
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Event Category:


Faculty of Music
01865 (2)76133


The Bate Collection, Faculty of Music
The Bate Collection, Faculty of Music
St Aldates, Oxford, OX1 1DB
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01865 276128