Exceptional Collection of Rare Pianos to be Auctioned

UK auction house Dreweatts is to auction the David Winston Piano Collection on 23 September 2021. This is the most important sale of historic keyboard instruments since that of the Colt Clavier Collection back in 2018.

This unique collection features 25 rare pianos (and one harpsichord) dating back to the 18th century.

composite image of some of the items being sold at the auction
Instruments from the David Winston Piano Collection. Original Photos: David Winston/Dreweatts Auctioneers.

David Winston has long been recognised as a world expert in piano restoration and conservation. A native of Los Angeles, he studied as a landscape designer before moving to the Scottish island of Islay in the 1970s (lured in by the peat-infused whisky for which the area was famous!) For a while, he became a lobster fisherman before returning to America where he studied violin and harpsichord manufacture.

He subsequently took a job in southeast England at Finchcocks (an important keyboard instrument country-house museum). In 1976 Winston established The Period Piano Company which became the go-to place for historic piano and harpsichord restoration.

Winston has restored many of the world’s most celebrated instruments including keyboards played by Mozart, Chopin and Liszt. In 2012 his company was awarded the Royal Warrant as HM The Queen’s “Conservator and Restorer of Pianos”.

Collection Highlights

The David Winston Piano Collection features a wide range of fascinating and important instruments. A detailed list can be found at the end of this article.

studio photographs of Pleyel Louis XV Chinoiserie grand piano (bent side), with inset of front of piano (lid closed)
Pleyel ‘Auto Pleyela’ grand piano. Photo: David Winston/Dreweatts Auctioneers.

Possibly the most valuable instrument in the auction is the ‘Auto Pleyela’ grand piano from French pianomaker Pleyel (1925). The Louis XV styled case features gesso Chinoiserie decoration and is signed by artist Léo Huillard. The player piano mechanism (pedalled or driven from an electric motor) is both rare and sophisticated with control of both dynamics and tempo. Very few examples still exist. The piano is being sold with a selection of 65 piano rolls. Estimated sale price £40,000-£60,000 ($55,000-$83,000).

studio photograph of Pleyel "duoclave"
Pleyel ‘Duoclave’ double grand piano. David Winston/Dreweatts Auctioneers.

Another Pleyel instrument in the collection is a double grand piano, also known as a Duoclave (1929). This combines two instruments into one case with a shared soundboard. At 9ft 6in length, this is a massive object. The two pianists sit facing each other with a single extra-large lid projecting the sound towards the audience. Only 50 Pleyel Duoclaves were ever made. Estimated sale price £30,000-£50,000 (approx. $42,000-$70,000).

studio photograph of Broadwood piano with hinged front "doors" closed
Broadwood “Barless” grand piano. Photo: David Winston/Dreweatts Auctioneer.

A Broadwood Arts and Crafts grand piano (1904) is a rare example of the important “Barless” innovation. These pianos were the first to use a single cast steel plate without crossbars/struts, reducing tonal transitions across the entire span of the keyboard. Estimate sale price £12,000-£18,000 ($16,500-$25,000).

studio photograph of Blüthner grand piano
Blüthner grand piano, with signatures. Photo: David Winston/Dreweatts Auctioneers.

Many of the rare pianos have a celebrity connection. An 1854 Blüthner grand piano features signatures from some of the greatest musicians of the time including Polish pianist and composer Paderewski. Estimated sale price £6,000-£8,000 ($8,000-$11,000).

The aforementioned “Barless” Broadwood was once owned by Andy Warhol’s boyfriend designer Jed Johnson. And a fine example of a ship’s piano (upright) was originally purchased by World War I flying ace Capt. Norman Macmillan for his wife singer and actress Ena Beaumont. Estimate £1,500-£2,000 ($2,000-$2,750).

studio photograph of Chappell piano
Chappell grand piano from the liner Mauretania 2. Photo: David Winston/Dreweatts Auctioneers.

Another ship’s piano, this time a grand, from the iconic Cunard liner Mauretania 2 is also being auctioned. The piano made by Chappell in 1948 is in an art deco style with heavy-duty slab legs (to better secure the instrument). The case is of walnut – a commonly used stable material for ship’s pianos. It is expected to sell for £6,000-£8,000 ($8,000-$11,000).

studio photograph of Wurlitzer piano with fallboard closed and split lid (wings) open
Wurlitzer Butterfly piano. Photo: David Winston/Dreweatts Auctioneers.

Other unusual instruments include a superb 4ft 1in Wurlitzer Art Deco Butterfly piano (formally known as “The Butterfly Grand Style 1411”). Built in 1937, this was, supposedly, the smallest 88-note grand piano yet to be made. Estimate £10,000-£15,000 ($14,000-$21,000).

studio photograph of the Rippen piano from bent side/rear
Rippen Aluminium piano. Photo: David Winston/Dreweatts Auctioneers.

Another rarity is an example of the revolutionary aluminium grand made by Dutch piano maker Johan Rippen (c1965). Not only does the space-age case design break all the rules, but the instrument also has a unique laminated soundboard that will not crack or distort. There are many other innovations to be found here. Estimated sale price £12,000-£15,000 ($16,500-$21,000).

studio photograph of David Winston's copy of a Brodmann instrument
A copy of an 1823 Brodmann fortepiano, made by David Winston. Photo: David Winston/Dreweatts Auctioneers.

The sale also features one of Winston’s own pianos – a Viennese fortepiano copy made in 1991 and based on an 1823 original by Joseph Brodmann. This superb instrument has been used for many concerts and recordings by some of the world’s leading pianists. It is considered by Winston to be the best he has ever made. Estimated sale price £15,000-£25,000 ($21,000-$35,000).

 “It is rare to see so many exquisite pianos together in one sale. We are proud to offer such an outstanding collection of instruments of such quality, history and craftsmanship. It is also very exciting, as this is the first time the collection has been offered in its entirety. Spanning three centuries of craftsmanship and innovation, this is a historic sale and a wonderful opportunity to own a piece of piano history.”

Will Richards, Deputy Chairman of Dreweatts

Auction information

The David Winston Piano Collection auction, managed by Dreweatts takes place on Thursday 23rd September, 2021 at the company’s Donnington Priory (Newbury, UK) saleroom.

Viewing will take place on-site at The Period Piano Company’s premises (Biddenden, Kent) from Wednesday 1st September. There is also a remote viewing service by appointment. To book email: email: [email protected] or call +44 (0) 1635 553 553.

The auction catalogue will be available from Dreweatts towards the end of August 2021.


The sale instruments…

  • Bechstein 6ft 7in grand piano, no 41005 (Saxony, 1896). Case — decorative mahogany Louis XV style.
  • Blüthner grand piano, (Leipzig, 1854). Case — signed by Ignace Paderewski, Frances Planté, Erwin Schulhoff, Annette Essipoff-Leschetizky, Georges Pitsch, and Emil Liebling.
  • Broadwood ‘Barless’ grand piano (London, 1904). Case — Arts and Crafts design attributed to CR Ashbee.
  • Broadwood upright piano (London, 1904). Case — Arts and Crafts “Manxman” design attributed to CR Ashbee.
  • Broadwood square piano (London, 1786).
  • Broadwood square piano (London, c1815).
  • [after Joseph Brodmann (1823)] Fortepiano copy by David Winston (Kent, 1991).
  • Chappell grand piano from the liner Mauretania 2 (London, 1948). Case — art deco with typical ship’s piano slab legs.
  • Clementi cabinet piano (London, c1825).
  • Eavestaff mini piano (London, c1930). Case — art deco style with original light fittings.
  • Erard square piano (Paris,1798).
  • Frey square piano (Paris, 1811). Case — Empire style with ormolu mounts.
  • Gabriel Gaveau 6ft 4in grand piano (Paris, c1926). Case — Empire style.
  • Gabriel Gaveau 6ft 4in grand piano (Paris, c1927). Case — 18th-century Louis XIV harpsichord style.
  • Gabriel Gaveau 5ft grand piano (Paris, c.1922). Case — 18th-century harpsichord style. With painted frescoes.
  • Gaveau 4ft 4in grand piano (Paris, c1932). Case —art deco style.
  • Lindner 6ft 2in grand piano (Shannon, c1970). Case — unique ‘tilting wing’ design by Nico Rippen.
  • Pleyel ‘Auto Pleyela’ grand piano (Paris, 1925). Case — gesso Chinoiserie decoration signed by Léo Huillard.
  • Pleyel 9ft 6in double grand piano (Paris, 1929). Case — two grand pianos combined with shared soundboard.
  • Rippen 6ft 2in grand piano (Holland, c1965). Case — unique cast iron aluminium frame/body.
  • Rubio harpsichord (England, 1995). Case — decorated by Richard Sell (signed) with scenes from Cambridge and places personal to the maker. 
  • Solente Ship’s Piano (London, c1925). Case — highly decorated with customary folding keyboard.
  • Strohmenger 4ft 2in grand piano (London c1930). Case — art deco style.
  • Wurlitzer 4ft 1in Butterfly grand piano (Cincinnati, c1937). Case — extremely small for an 88-note instrument; art deco style.
  • Anonymous (possibly Clementi) square piano (England, c.1976). Case — includes 7 inset Wedgwood plaques.
  • Anonymous Sewing Table Piano (Austria or Germany, c1835). Case — designed to also serve as a sewing table.

A collection of antique piano furniture (stools, benches, chairs, music stands) will also be offered as part of the sale.


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