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Student Showcase Archive

Eve Zaunbrecher

MA work

MA work

  • Béquilles (crutch) harp mechanisms

    Béquilles (crutch) harp mechanisms, Georges Cousineau 1785
    Carved, gilt, planed and painted pine, with iron mechanisms
    Photographer: Eve Zaunbrecher

  • Single action pedal harp

    Single action pedal harp, Jean-Henri Naderman 1785
    Carved giltwood and painted pine, with iron mechanisms
    160 cm | Photographer: © V&A Images

  • Le Concert improvisé, ou le Prix de l'Harmonie

    Le Concert improvisé, ou le Prix de l'Harmonie, Louis Léopold Boilly 1790
    oil on canvas
    46 cm x 55 cm | Photographer: Photo © Musée de l'Hôtel Sandelin, © Direction des Musées de France, 2000

  • Self portait

    Self portait, Rose-Adélaïde Ducreux 1791
    oil on canvas
    128.9 cm x 193 cm | Photographer: © Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

An Enlightened Instrument: the Design, Education, and Sociability of the Single Action Pedal Harp in Ancien Régime Paris, 1760-1789

The harp has been in use in Western Europe since antiquity. In the eighteenth century, this ancient design was mechanised by German makers by adding pedals to alter string pitch, allowing for continuous playing with the hands while the feet operated the pedals. After this new instrument debuted in the Paris salons in the 1760s, the single action pedal harp became a fashionable instrument for wealthy Parisians at the same time that it became a freestanding piece of furniture, much like the harpsichord. It featured prominently in Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie as an example of an ‘organised’ instrument that took advantage of engineering to improve the musical ability of a centuries-old design.

The majority of histories on the single action harp have focused on the technological development that resulted in Sébastien Erard’s double action harp – the ancestor of the modern concert harp – patented in London in 1794. This dissertation focuses on the social history of the single action pedal harp in Paris from 1760 to 1789, including its place in the larger discourse on mechanisation and scientific innovation, how music education defied social conventions of gendered knowledge, and how the pedal harp operated in a similar way to other domestic furniture in regards to sociability and entertainment. Through the use of existing pedal harps, archival material on instrument makers, harp method books, and the wealth of secondary literature on science, music, and sociability in Enlightenment Paris, this dissertation examines the pedal harp’s supposed role as an instrument of the Enlightenment. The problem of educating musicians on new instrument designs revealed the issues with mechanisation as progress, and the implications of gender for furniture-like instruments spoke to the unique relationship of large instruments to the human body. The pedal harp was in every way an instrument of the ancien régime, and sadly lost favour as its aristocratic owners met their own demise.



  • MA Degree


    School of Humanities


    MA History of Design, 2016

  • As a musician myself, I am fascinated by the relationship between musicians and their instruments. The design of instruments, like any other technology, depends on and affects the social context in which they are made. I want to understand how design changes were taught and learned, especially in the case of an object that takes years of specialised education to master. I am also interested in the relationship between patrons and craftspeople, the intervention of theory in design, and the use of music and musical instruments as a means of displaying wealth, skill, and belonging. 
  • Degrees

  • BA History, Louisiana State University, USA, 2011
  • Experience

  • Volunteer research assistant, Royal College of Music Museum, London, 2016; Gallery assistant, Isokon Gallery, London, 2015–present; Assistant to the Director, Paul & Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum, Lafayette, Louisiana, USA, 2013–2014
  • Publications

  • 'Leonardo Da Vinci and Dangerous Play', Unmaking Things [online], 2015