The Dietzes: inventors from Father to Son
The Dietz family from Germany were famous for their highly innovative musical instruments, like this harp piano combining a harp and a keyboard.
Piano harp by Dietz, second half of the 19th century.
This odd instrument uses keys to activate small leather-covered jacks, which pluck metal strings covered in silk. The founder of the lineage, Johann Christian Dietz, born in Germany in 1778, became interested in creating musical instruments early on. In 1805, he made the melodion, a small square piano that produced a sound similar to the harmonica. He also came up with an aeolian harp, a calipsonance and a trochleon… which received solely critical acclaim for their ingenuity. In 1813, he left the Netherlands, where he had set up a business, when he was summoned to Paris by the Comte de Montalivet to develop machines for digging canals. The same year he invented the harp piano, patented in 1814, which earned Dietz & Son a silver medal in the Paris Exhibition of 1827. The instrument continued to be produced in Brussels by his son and grandson, who turns out to have made the one here, with its rich decoration of arabesques, lyres and women.