Monday, February 14, 2011

Cupid’s Instrument of Choice?

Well, of course I think we’d all respond “arrows” to this question….gold-tipped for love, please…


{the amazingly-executed Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss,
Musee du Louvre,
by Antonio Canova 1757-1822}

Perhaps if you discount his unerring arrows, or if I specified musical instrument, you might respond that Cupid carries a harp, or at least many of his little assistants do ~

harps angels

The harp first appeared around 2500 BC in Egypt. Here is a slightly “later” version around 800 BC~

harp ad 800

While I could write an extensive post on the history of the harp, with tales of troubadours, Celts and courtly love, today I am zooming in like Cupid’s Arrow on a lifelong desire,
a full-sized French Pedal Harp~

erard grecian 2

The Celts believed that the harp was the bridge of love, between Heaven & Earth. In Norway, it was a “ladder” symbolizing the ascent to higher states of love. Universally, the harp is a symbol of love…a representation of lyrical art, poetry and music. Tell me, doesn’t the sound of a harp put you in a lovey-mood? Or if you are like me, does it also make you drool…?


Via the Musee de La Musique in Paris,
just look at the workmanship~

harpe paris 5

The modern harp was developed in Paris by Sebastien Erard in the late 18C; he devised a complex mechanism in collaboration with a watchmaker that allowed the harp to play naturals, flats & sharps with the movement of foot pedals…musical genius!

harpe paris 3 Erard made similar advances in the mechanisms of pianos,
but oh that’s another post…

harpe paris

Coming from a family of ebenistes and gilders, Erard conceived fantastically technical yet unbelievably beautiful instruments in his atelier, creating harps and pianos for the likes of Beethoven, Chopin, Marie Antoinette and the royal court~

harpe paris 4

But why am I telling you all of this? Well, because I have wanted to play the harp since I was five, and with the only harp teacher being 1.5 hours away, I had one lesson, and then instead of the harp I got piano and violin lessons down the street.

harpe paris 2

Fast forward many years, this last Christmas I decided that gosh darn it, I’m going to do it, I am going to play the harp! With the guide of a teacher but largely self-teaching and playing by ear, I am on the road. Every night it is scales and fingering exercises, easy melodies and a few glissandos to the joy of my “audience,” usually Mom, Honey & Biscuit. While I aspire to play Claude Debussy’s Arabesques, right now it’s the basic stuff. I have a small rental harp of course, nothing like this beautiful Erard harp, but one can dream…

erard paris

But this leads me to my final point of this post, which is that I have asked God and the Universe to please send me an antique French Harp…for a reasonable price. Here is one that was on Antique Roadshow, a late 18C harp that the harp teacher snagged after a student’s mom asked her to evaluate it at an estate sale~

roadshow harp

“Not a harp for a student,” the teacher said, as she instead bought it for herself for about $2,500. Roadshow’s estimate of worth: $60,000. Nothing online says what the student’s Mom thought about being snaked out of this harp, but I suppose it is proof that antique harps can be found in unlikely places. So, all of you estate sale and antique store shoppers out there, if you see one of these locally, you know who to call! In the meantime, I’m going to continue practicing and hope to one day soon put up a little music here.

Wishing you a lovely Valentine’s day, with your loved ones and your passions~


  1. How simply wonderful. What made you want to play at such a young age? I don't think I even knew what one was at 5. This post has made me appreciate the beauty of the harp, always just something played in the background somewhere. I'm quite inspired that you are pursuing your lifelong dream and will keep my eyes open :)
    I made my daughter a necklace with the "13" charm for her birthday, she loved it - thanks again.

  2. What a lovely story! Good for you! I too have always been fascinated by the harp (it's just so pretty and romantic) and wanted to play it as long as I can remember. Sadly, I have no musical ability and can only play the radio. James Bond was a music major in college (he studied operatic performance) and can play pretty much any instrument known to man. By ear. Indy takes violin lessons, but I'm afraid he's got more of me and less JB in him.

  3. I think it is wonderful that you are following your passion to play the harp!:) I hope you had a lovely Valentines Day~ Hugs, Rachel

    French Farmhouse 425

  4. I have always loved harp music! As a matter of fact, the hubby and I played some celtic harp music while we ate our Valentine's dinner together last night!

  5. Such a beautiful statue, indeed. When I first saw it, all I could think of was "I wish I had those upper arms"! Simply lovely.

  6. I am so happy you are doing this. Did you know there was a famous Harp School in Maine.
    Very Interesting post. It so happens I am doing a painting of a girl and harp.


  7. Beautiful Andrea. I have always loved the harp and the ethereal music coming from it when played.

    As always it is never too late to make our dreams come true!

    Happy Valentines dear friend!

    Art by Karena

  8. Andrea I am so incredibly impressed. Oh to play the harp would be tremendous. I so enjoyed this post; the history, etc. We had a harpist at our wedding. I feel in love with the music of a local WA state harpist by the name of Bronn Journey and hired him twice. Harp music is the next thing to being in heaven. So, I applaud you and look forward to hearing you play online. Oh how I'd love a baby grand piano. Would give anything to play again after all these years. Need to stop moving first.

    Hoping you are very well Andrea? xx Deb

  9. Ah lovely! Lets find one and try to take it on the plane. I am sure they will agree once they hear you play.

  10. Hi, Andrea!

    Canova's "Psyche Revived..." is one of the most beautiful pieces I've ever seen. Finding it here on your blog took me right back to a magical afternoon at the Louvre!

    I love all the harps! The remind me of Cecile de Volanges and Chevalier Danceny in the 1988 movie "Dangerous Liaisons." Remember how they passed love notes between the strings of the harp?!?

    I commend you on learning to play this instrument on your own. I'm pretty sure I'd sound exactly like (if not worse than) young Cecile. And, I'm certain my pooches would run away howling!

    Bon chance!


  11. Oh and forgot to mention how much I adore Canova's sculpture, magnificent....

    Art by Karena

  12. Loved this wonderful post. I almost bought a violin the other day that was damaged beyond repair. It was at a thrift store. I didn't! Now I am kicking myself for not getting it. It would have made great wall decor. On my constant treasure hunts I will be on the lookout for a golden harp. :) xoxo