Labrèche 1699 harpsichord to be sold

Dear Jackrail members,

On 4 November, Vichy Enchères in France will auction a harpsichord by Claude Labrèche (Carpentras, 1699). I organised an exhibition and concerts around this instrument in 2012 at the Musée du Palais Lascaris in Nice, following the instrument’s restoration. The harpsichord is designated as a monument historique, which means that it cannot leave France.

Information on the harpsichord (written by Christopher Clarke, expert for the auction):

The auction catalogue:

The estimated price is not given in the catalogue, but when I contacted the auction house I was informed that it is 500 000/700 000€.


Are there any recordings of this instrument?

I like the British RAF roundels on the angel’s wings in the foreground. And the neat tuning hammer holder.

I’m sorry to say that machine translations from Google and now built in to Firefox of technical material with specialist musical terms are hopeless, and also very funny. Kirkman is described as the King’s postman, and the instrument is referred to as a good style of invoice all through.

A fine looking instrument. Am I right in thinking this is not the original stand, and it would have been more like the barley sugar spiral one in Stuttgart?

700,000 Euros - seems excessive. This will be very interesting.

Chris Clarke’s report makes it clear that the stand and music desk are
non-original. They are modern replacements by Philippe Fretigné.

There are no recordings of this instrument. Frédérick Haas played a concert on it just after the restoration, and I may have a homemade recording of that somewhere; I would need to dig a bit.

The auction website has an English version of Christopher Clarke’s text after the French version; one must scroll down quite a bit. And then if you click on the link “Comte rendu de Christopher Clarke sur le clavecin Labrèche” you get a technical report, which is also in both French and English.

The stand resembles that under the spinet by Richard dated 1690, which is pictured in “The harpsichord and clavichord” by Raymond Russell, illustration #44.


It is no doubt an extraordinary instrument, I would love to hear it. Meanwhile I am surprised that the owners choose to sell it by auction. Given that it is a monument historique the market is extremely small at this price. The French State and the Palais Lascaris did not make a deal with the owners in an earlier stage, so now very few French musea (one?) and a dozen wealthy French private persons could afford this price. Let’s just hope that the instrument will stay available for concerts, recordings and scientific research, it’s worth it.

1 Like

@pieter.kuipers Yes, my sentiments exactly. I’ll wager that it will be passed in.

The tuning hammer holder in the keywell also on the Stuttgart instrument would indicate that it’s an original maker feature. I think it’s very nifty.

It appears Mr Klinkhamer makes a copy. Does this mean drawings are available?

Sold at 500,000.00 euros:

To whom?

I don’t know. I believe the name has not been disclosed.

I now learn the 500,000 euros are to be raised to more than 600,000 thanks to the auction house’s fee.
I’d say a price only second to Rafael Puyana’s three-manual Hass auction?

Since it has to stay in France ad with such a high price buyer’s premium, I’ll bet a pizza it’s an institutional buy. So hoping we will still see it in public.

That page has been taken down already.

It wasn’t sold…

1 Like

@Miles Aha. Thanks for that information. Hardly surprising given the constraint on it and the general state of the economy.

Have you more informations? How do you know?
The auction website stated, before the page was taken down, “sold at 500,000 euros”. I’m sorry I didn’t took a screenshot, but everybody have taken that information seriously so the common knowledge now is the Labrèche was sold.

However if it wasn’t sold, this explains why the page has been taken down.

Thanks Miles.
A misleading information on the auction website, then. So the Labrèche is still unsold.

Hi non-bidders! I followed the auction live, was much moved by the demonstration, it was played, it was stated that some of the plectra were original! Wow! That might explain the squeaky sounds here ‘n’ there, also evident when the instrument was played in front of a large (for harpsichords, mind) public at Lascaris in 2012. A person who was at the auction later explained to me that the seller bid the price up, it didn’t reach the reserve, so: no sale! It being a national treasure it cannot leave France. Classed, as the 2012 restoration was paid for, at least partly, by public resources, so that’s logical. Museés de France found, via a two year long effort via all sorts of subscriptions etc, 24 million to keep the Cimabue, so to stump up 550k + auction fees + vat =790k was perhaps stretching resources in the ongoing fiscal year. Vat on museum buys? Needs research, perhaps, but I gotta run off and tweak a nice Hubbard kit , another day, another dollar…

Goodbye for now! Tom