Practical Examination of the Barberini Harp

Eric Kleinmann

Synopsis: Renowned master historical harp builder Eric Kleinmann presents his research and examination of the Barberini Harp in preparation for construction of a facsimile. He observed changes to the neck of the original harp: What were the consequences? One of them is string length—Kleinmann made a small-scale model of a section of the harp to test the presumed original stringing and the current stringing. Examinations revealed the harp’s neck had been hollowed out since it was originally made: Why? In addition, cracks were found in gilding, and a later addition of decoration has been found to disturb the lowest strings; and unexplained pinholes do not correspond to soundboard holes. Based on his examination, Kleinmann believes that the soundboard is not original. Dendrochronological examination found that the wood for it was growing between 1341–1644, before and during the Little Ice Age. The soundboard was made with wood grown up until 1605. 360-degree camera footage from inside the neck revealed repairs labels on the inside; some strange objects were found inside the soundbox. The ties [brace covers] on the harp are exquisitely crafted and a little unusual. Finally, Kleinmann is convinced that the column could not have been made in walnut wood. He has subsequently been proven wrong by Volker Haag and the two have since engaged in a conversation about the various issues arising from their examinations.


As part of continued research within the Barberini Harp Project, Harfenlabor invited master historical harp maker Eric Kleinmann to reflect on his findings following decades of research into, and practical examinations of the Barberini Harp. Harfenlabor also commissioned Kleinmann to build a small-scale model of the top of the harp for experiments with stringing, and present his conclusions at the Convening around the Barberini Harp, a symposium organised by Harfenlabor that took place on December 14-16, 2016, at the Museo Nazionale degli Strumenti Musicali and at the Istituto Storico Austriaco, Roma. At the time, Kleinmann had strong reasons to believe that the harp could not have been made out of walnut. Subsequent Thünen-Institut examination proved that the column and the neck both walnut. Harfenlabor organised a Zoom conversation between Kleinmann and Volker Haag, the lead wood scientist on the Thünen team, in which they reflect on their different conclusions and explore other open questions.

© Armin Linke / Harfenlabor 2020
Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND International 4.0

Cite:&&Eric Kleinmann, <i>Practical Examination of the Barberini Harp</i>, Barberini Harp Project / Convening, by Studio Armin Linke / Harfenlabor, May 15, 2022,, MP4, 18:23,