Vertical piano, Galliano (Florence)

Domenico del Mela

Data sheet

  • Author: Domenico del Mela
  • Date: 1739
  • Technique: cypress wood and boxwood
  • Inventory: Inv. Cherubini 1988/110

Image gallery


As we know, there are two types of piano: horizontal ones, also called grand pianos, and vertical ones, like this one, currently on display in the keyboard instrument section of the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze. It was made by Domenico Del Mela in Gagliano (in the Mugello region of northern Tuscany) in 1739. It is the oldest upright piano preserved today and was in all likelihood the first attempt to build a piano that reduced the features and sound of the grand piano, arranging the strings vertically. A vertical harpsichord had already been invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori for the grand prince Ferdinando de’ Medici, and it is possible that Domenico Del Mela was inspired by that illustrious model. In Del Mela’s piano, the strings are struck by little hammers, like in the instrument invented a few decades earlier by Cristofori, but their vertical arrangement drastically reduces the instrument’s bulk.

It was built a few years after Cristofori’s death, and it would seem, although it is not known for certain, that Del Mela was Cristofori’s apprentice or assistant. The upright piano remained in the Del Mela family until 1928, when it was purchased by the Italian State.



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