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Princeton, New Jersey


Francis de Haes Janvier (1774–1824)

3 3/8 in x 30 1/4 in x 18 1/4 in Red cedar, tulip poplar, glass

Historic Odessa Foundation, gift of Miss Margaret Janvier Hort


“Fras. D. Janvier / fecit et pinxt 1822” is painted on the underside of the middle top board. Letters from A to G denoting musical notes are painted on the frame edges near the corresponding glass bars.

When donated, the marimba case was intact, but almost all of the glass bars were damaged or missing.  The twill tapes to which they were glued were fragmentary as were the mounts on the case.

According to the donor, the marimba was owned in the family of George Washington Janvier until it was sold to an unidentified buyer in a 1952 auction of her grandmother’s possessions in Bridgeton, New Jersey. The donor repurchased it shortly before donating it to Winterthur in 1981.

This musical instrument, called a marimba by its donor, was essentially an experimental musical instrument.  Its tone came from tuned glass bars struck with a soft mallet, making the sound softer than that of the closely related xylophone, having metal bars. The glass bars rang into the wooden frame, which might have functioned as a rudimentary sound box, but the sound served only an intimate audience.

How Francis Janvier came to create this marimba is a mystery.  Throughout his adult life, Janvier demonstrated artistic and musical skills and interests.  The wood case of the marimba displays his coach-painting capabilities, which was his primary trade.

Zimmerman, A Storied Past, 236-237