HARPSICHORD Guillaume HEMSCH in PARIS, 18th c.

French type harpsichord with double manual, dated 1765-1766.

Five octaves. 61 notes. F0-F5.

Two eight of feet registers; one four of feet.

The signature of Guillaume Hemsch is written under the wrest-plank, with the date 1765 and on the bottom: “This harpsichord was rebuilt by G. Hemsch I Paris, 1766”. The manual is also dated 1766.

The rose on the soundboard is the one of Ioannes Ruckers, dated 1636.

Grant O’Brien, in his book “RUCKERS, a harpsichord and virginal building tradition” write about it: “This is a fine French double with the date 1766 on the keys. In a recent restoration it was discovered to be the work of Guillaume Hemsch, brother of the better known Henri Hemsch. It has an IR rose, a French shove coupler and action, and keyboards with the compass F& to f3.”

 In the condition report established by André Extermann in 1994, illustrated with a lot of photos, it appears that “the largest part of the soundboard comes from a flemsih muselaar. The tracks of the pegs, the small bridge and the jack-holes are distinctly visible. The bottom of the body has been made from the same muselaar a is shown by the tracing visible on the inside part as well as the counter-ribs…”

Guillaume Hemsch, younger brother of Henri, worked in the same workshop rue Qincampoix. Baptised on December 5th in Castenholz, near Cologne, he came to Paris with his family c. 1720. Admitted to the guild in 1748 he became “juré comptable” of the musical instrument makers in 1760. He died in 1776.

Only 3 harpsichord of this maker are now repertoried.

This harpsichord comes from the Cesar Snoeck collection (1832-1898) auctioned in 1894.

The Keiser Guillaume II bought 1145 lots for the museum of Berlin. Most of them were destroyed during the second world war bombings.

The Tsar Nicolas II got the baron von Stackelberg to buy 363 instruments for the imperial chapel of Saint-Petersbourg, partly destroyed during the last word-war.

The Maecenas Louis Cavens gave 437 flemish items to the musical instruments museum of Brussels.

A small part of the Snoeck collection was kept by the family and sold later.

This instrument has been bought by Mme. Planchard in Paris who sold it around 1925 to Miss Berthe Vaucher, a musician in Geneva. Then it was sold in 1970 to the harpsichord player Isabella Nef (1898-1976), pupil of Wanda Landowska. She sold it later to her pupil Raymond Touyère (1941-1993).