A very fine and historical Louis XV style gilt bronze mounted kingwood and marquetry Steinway art case piano<BR />Model L, Serial No. 23914; Case No. C3264<BR />1924-1925
Lot 1226W
A very fine and historical Louis XV style gilt bronze mounted kingwood and marquetry Steinway art case piano
Model L, Serial No. 23914; Case No. C3264
Sold for US$ 266,500 inc. premium
Lot Details
Property from a Private Collection, Hillsborough, California
A very fine and historical Louis XV style gilt bronze mounted kingwood and marquetry Steinway art case piano
Model L, Serial No. 23914; Case No. C3264
A notable example of exquisite partnering of the finest marquetry inlay and boldly conceived gilt bronze mounts. The harp form top inlaid a quatre faces with a foliate vine sinuously entwining the cross banding and encircling a ribbon tied lute and trumpet trophy, the keyboard flanked by substantial acanthus and rocaille mounts, the case sides with foliate reeded mounts centering ribbon tied musical trophies above a circlet of laurel, and gilt putto musicians strumming lyres perched on billowing clouds, the cabriole legs adorned with acanthus scrolled mounts headed by a floral garland ending in foliate sabots.
height 40in (102cm); width 82in (208cm); depth 60in (152cm)


  • Provenance:
    Steinway & Company, 1924
    L. Alavoine et Compagnie, Paris, 1925
    Possibly the Russian Embassy, Washington, D.C., 1925-1938
    St. Anthony Hotel, San Antonio, Texas 1938-1990
    Private Collection, California, 1990 – present

    According to the Steinway & Co. records, the piano was completed on August 19, 1924 as a Model L Player Piano. It was then shipped to the Paris firm of L. Alavoine et Compagnie for decoration. It was delivered to the Aeolian Company New York City on September 21, 1925 for one of Aeolian's clients. This superb piano is illustrated on page 169 of Steinway, Ronald V. Ratcliffe, Henry Z. Steinway and identified as a Hamburg Steinway, designed for the Russian embassy in Paris and owned by the St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio. The player mechanism was removed some time ago and the piano has been restrung for use as a manual instrument. This was probably done at the time the piano was installed in the St. Anthony Hotel.

    The St. Anthony Hotel opened in January, 1909. The hotel was purchased in 1935 by Ralph W. Morrison who wanted to elevate the hotel to world class prestige. Mr. Morrison was an avid traveler and throughout his ownership purchased French Empire as well as 19th century French furniture to adorn the hotel's public rooms. In a newsletter from the 1983 National Preservation Conference, held at the St. Anthony, Mr. Morrison is mentioned as having purchased the piano "made for a czar" from the Russian Embassy in Paris in 1938 for the price of $27,000.

    The hotel changed ownership a few times but the piano remained in the lobby as part of the famous Peacock Alley cocktail lounge. Eleanor Roosevelt, President Eisenhower, General MacArthur and Princess Grace of Monaco are just a few noted persons who visited that lounge. The piano remained in the lobby until the early 1990's when it was moved to California by one of the owners. A newspaper article by David Anthony Richelieu in the San Antonio Express mourned the loss of one of San Antonio's treasures when the piano left the hotel for California. In that article Mr. Richelieu dismissed the story about the piano having been owned by Czar Nicholas II. He did, however, indicate the piano was made in 1924 for the Soviet Embassy in Paris and was later installed in the Soviet Embassy in Washington "where Morrison paid $27,000" for the piano.

    The superb marquetry and casting of the mounts point to a highly skilled ebeniste and bronze maker and are of the quality one would expect of the late 19th/early 20th century makers such as Francois Linke or Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener. L. Alavoine et Compagnie were important interior designers who maintained offices in Paris and New York. The Plaza Hotel, as well as several Stanford White buildings, were decorated in the Beaux Art style by that firm. It is not known whom they commissioned to decorate the offered piano. On page 175 of the Ratcliffe book, there is an image of a Louis XV style Steinway art case that is mounted with many of the identical mounts on this piano. A Steinway piano sold by Sotheby's, New York, lot 15, January 27, 2012 bears many of the identical mounts found on the offered piano. These include the putto seated among clouds playing a lyre, the lush floral cast chutes, scrolling leaf cast sabots and some of the encadrements.

    There is no known documentation to substantiate the piano being made for or placed in the Russian Embassy either in Paris or Washington, D.C. The Russian Embassy was originally a Beaux Art mansion built for Mrs. George Pullman in 1910. It was sold to the Russian government in 1913 and has been a residence for Russian Ambassadors to the U.S. since that time.
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  1. Christine Skinner
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