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0703 - 4-key conical flute by Richard Potter


Stamped 'Potter Senior' and dated 1776, this is one of around 25 such surviving dated flutes which can be securely attributed to Richard Potter, although it is very likely that flutes stamped 'Potter, London' in a scroll precede this period and are also by Richard Potter's workshop. Potter started stamping his flutes Potter Senior at exactly the point at which his son, William Henry, completed his apprenticeship and it presumably became clear that the latter was going to continue the family business. The dated flutes from 1776-1784 stamped Potter Senior (and a number of others, also dated but stamped simply 'Potter, London') are interesting because they exhibit characteristics not so clearly evident in earlier Potter instruments. They tend to be quite crisply made, with a slightly slimmer profile than the earlier flutes, and are as likely to be of hardwoods or ivory as of his more usual boxwood, although there is a particularly elegant boxwood flute of this type (with corps de rechange) in the Bate collection in Oxford (Bate 1028, dated 1782). The flute here is made of an unidentified red hardwood (perhaps some kind of rosewood) with a distinctive grain pattern, and is almost certainly from the same piece of wood as a left-handed 5-key flute by Potter Senior dated 1777 in Ulrich Halder's collection

Potter was clearly experimenting during this period, trying different wood types, introducing fingerholes ergonomically displaced at a slight angle across the body of the instrument (separately for left and right hand) for comfort, and prototyping various types of graduated tuning slide which would feature alongside pewter plug keys as one element of his 1785 patent. This particular flute has two other features which provide evidence that it was used and valued for a considerable period beyond its manufacture. The large central ivory boss is a reinforcing replacement, presumably to support a damaged socket, though this has apparently also permanently fused the upper and lower joints. The flute is also stamped 'Monzani keys' and carries what are obviously a relatively early form of the keys Monzani patented, with a central threaded pin on the flap, to which a small metal disk secures the flat leather pad., indicating that it was still in use over thirty years after it was made.

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