It has been 133 years since the first time that the world saw the C. Bechstein original of the Sphinx Grand Piano, a marvel of craftsmanship and opulence showcased at a London exhibition. Only a single photograph remained of the original, so any hope of recreating this relic with styling dating back to the era of Napoleon Bonaparte would be incredibly difficult. Now, this elegant piano is recreated, and at a retail price of $1.4 million, is being displayed at Showcase Pianos – Aberdeen Centre in Richmond.
The Sphinx is a mythical creature featuring the fusion of a graceful feminine body and a lion’s head. Representing mystery and wisdom, the namesake of the grand piano is adorned with wings to give mythical weightlessness. Its feet are in the style of a lion’s paw, presented in the kind of realism that comes only from meticulous craftsmanship, and a liberal amount of glorious gold.
The detail is where the Sphinx truly shines. The cabinet contains feathered lines of pyramid mahogany, a Ciresa spruce soundboard, beech and mahogany rim, Renner action and hammers, and a traditional sand-cast iron plate. The cabinetry is developed through a process known as ‘lost wax,’ where decorative elements are carved out of wood and fit to ensure that it will be functional when casting in bronze. Wax is used to make models of the interlocking piece and is then evaporated through a process called ‘metal chasing’ when the bronze is cast.
This freshly-cast bronze is then fire-gilded with gold, and then transformed to a dull yellow by process of ‘fire-treating’ before being turned vibrant again through hand-polishing. After 1,800 working hours of over 32 months, the Sphinx is finally complete.
Details such as the lion’s feet and leaves of laurel and oak are buffed and show their meticulous detail.
Lauded for having formidable sound quality along with its royal presence, the Sphinx has been reborn to be played as much as it is to be admired.
Manuel Bernaschek, owner Showcase Pianos, says, “The arrival of the C. Bechstein Sphinx Grand Piano has brought great publicity on television and in print, and the interest has been incredible. People from all over the greater Vancouver area have been making their way to Aberdeen Centre so as to catch a glimpse or take a photo of the rare instrument.”
- Coleman Pete is a contributor for EcoLuxLuv Communications. Coleman writes about menswear, design, and culture, and can be found combing through vintage clothing racks or reading in one of his favourite cafés in Vancouver's Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. Read more by Coleman at OverdressedNW.com.
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