This piano, with its intricately gilded French polished cabinetwork supported by winged-satyrs, is one of the ‘jewels’ in the Stewart Symonds Piano Collection.
The man responsible for this opulent cabinetwork was François Linke, a leading Parisian ébéniste (cabinet maker) of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Born in 1855 in Prague, Linke moved to Paris in 1875 and gained employment with an unknown German cabinetmaker. It is known that by 1881 Linke had his own workshop and was supplying furniture to other more established makers.
However it was at the famous Exhibition Universelle of 1900 that Linke established his reputation and made his fortune. Held from 14 April to 12 November in Paris, the 1900 Exhibition Universelle celebrated the achievements of the past century and showcased new inventions and artistic styles.
Talking films and escalators made their first public outings, Campbell’s Soup was awarded a gold medal (an image of which still adorns many of the company’s products), and Rudolf Diesel exhibited his diesel engine that ran on peanut oil.
The Exhibition drew nearly 50,000 visitors to the French capital. Linke exhibited a unique display of furniture that marked a transition from the historicist interpretation of Louis XV and Louis XVI styles – an interpretation that was the mainstay of his nearest rivals – to something startlingly new.
This new style fused traditional aspects of eighteenth century Rococo with the lively flowing lines of the then-contemporary Art Nouveau. Linke’s notebook records visitors to his stand from England, Europe, the Americas, Egypt and Japan, among them kings, princes, wealthy heiresses and the President of France.
From then on, La Maison Linke became the pre-eminent furniture house until the outset of World War II, renowned for the technical and artistic brilliance of his work.
From his grandshowrooms in Paris’s famously beautiful Place Vendôme, Linke embarked on many important commissions, making and designing furniture for leading international industrialists and bankers.
After the 1914-18 World War, Linke undertook the extraordinary commission to furnish the Ras el-Tin Palace in Alexandria for King Fuad of Egypt, possibly the largest single furniture commission ever conceived, eclipsing even Versailles. Linke remained active until the middle years of the 1930s and died in 1946.
Not only is the cabinetwork of this instrument exceptional but so too is the musical instrument itself. Even in its unrestored state, it shows signs of an innovative piano-action design, and the soundboard being still ‘alive’, promises to deliver a nineteenth century French piano sound of excellence. Edith Cowan University welcomes your support of this exciting restoration project.