These bentside spinets are a harpsichord model which was remarkably popular during the second half of the 18th century. Numerous German harpsichord makers like Johann Heinrich Silbermann and some specialised workshops in England like those of Joseph Mahoon and the Hitchcock family (John father, John son and Thomas) produced those instruments in great numbers.
The nowadays rather unfamiliar design of these instruments has a number of specific advantages: A small harpsichord in this slightly distorted shape offers similar sound characteristics to a "proper" grand, especially suitable for chamber music. The angled seating position places the players sideways to each other and in a very suitable position for listening and communicating with the musical partner.
Our Silbermann bentside spinets are based on the instrument in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nürnberg, MINe 90.
This family portrait of the Basle painter Joseph Johann Kauffmann von 1775 shows a patrician's living room. Especially remarkable is the situation to the right: Music is an activity of adolescents, the daughter playing a typical bentside spinet, the son tuning his violin.
This scenery is a metaphor for the "tuning" with a future partner in marriage, playing music is also one of the socially accepted activities to meet possible partners within upper class, and an important part of adolescent education.
Typical for that time period and situation is the musical genre of sonata for keyboard instrument with an accompaniment of violin of flute.
(Frontispice of the first edition of W. A. Mozart's opus 1, the Sonata for harpsichord with violin accompaniment KV 6)
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