Registered as a Model B, this extraordinary art-case piano is an homage to the Belle Epoque with lush, sculptural mounts by the one of the century's most celebrated cabinetmakers. According to Steinway records, the original 1906 case was manufactured in Hamburg and delivered to Steinway & Son in London on 30 November 1906 and was subsequently sold to James Co. of Nottingham on December 31st of the same year. The piano did not reappear until 1926 when the case arrived at Steinway & Son's New York factory on October 25th for interior repairs, though the extent of the repairs performed and the responsible party were not fully detailed. The piano resurfaced once again at Parke- Bernet Galleries (now Sotheby's) in New York on 14 December 1940 and sold to an anonymous bidder for $1,250.
Little is known of its history between the sale at Parke-Bernet in 1940 and its acquisition by the current owner's father during a European excursion during the early 1950s. As the modifications took place during some of the most tumultuous years of the 20th century, it is almost certain that the case was acquired by an affluent patron with ample funding for the project. During this undocumented decade, the case was liberated from the restrained lines of the Louis XVI style and set on sinuous cabriole legs and profusely mounted with scantily-clad figures and cavorting putti. Additionally, the music rest and keyboard were adapted to fit the selected ormolu mouldings and mother-of-pearl keys.
Whilst the mounts are a mélange of styles and qualities, the overall design is punctuated by the pair of prominent putto-form candelabra by the renown ébéniste Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener. The candelabra, likely repurposed from a bureau or other meuble, are almost certainly based on a Léon Méssagé design and also bear a rarely-seen and elaborate signature for Zwiener. Though the intended purpose of these mounts has not been fully established, it is widely known that Méssagé's influence was prevalent in both Zwiener's and François Linke's creations. It is not surprising that some mounts were strikingly similar, if not of the same design provided to the cabinetmakers by the sculptor (see C. Payne, François Linke: The Belle Epoque of French Furniture, Woodbridge, 2003, p. 73). A pair of candelabra resembling those on the present lot are illustrated in a preliminary watercolour drawing for Linke's 'Figaro' piano (Index No. 1400), though the candelabra were ultimately omitted in the final design (C. Payne, p.452, pl. 537).