Sixteen years in the making
The Steinway White House Piano in Miniature is a precise replica of the art case Steinway grand piano that was presented to President Theodore Roosevelt as a gift from the Steinway family to the people of the United States in 1903. The miniature was created by master artist Paul Gentile, who spent more than sixteen years conceiving, crafting, building, and finishing the work. It is not a miniature that simply looks like a piano. It is a fully functional 1:7 scale grand piano, the first non-company instrument ever to earn the designation of Steinway & Sons piano.
A tale of two pianos
The original 1903 Steinway White House piano served through the administrations of Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin Roosevelt; it was then donated to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. The gilded case of the piano was carved by Juan Ayuso with the seals of the thirteen original American colonies applied in marquetry along the sides. Thomas Dewing's allegorical Impressionist painting on the top depicts the nine muses: Clio (history), Calliope (epic poetry), Melpomene (tragedy), Euterpe (music), Polyhymnia (religious music), Thalia (comedy), Terpsichore (dancing), Urania (astronomy), and Erato (lyric poetry).
Paul Gentile's 1:7 miniature of this legendary instrument stays true to every single aspect of the piano's mechanical construction and artistic finishing. Working by hand and often with the aid of a jeweler's loupe, Gentile replicated all 12,000 parts required to build an actionable Steinway piano. For many of these parts, he had to first build miniature tooling, including a scale replica of the venerable rim press devised and patented by the Steinway family in the 1870s.
The casting of the iron plate was completed by the O.S. Kelly Foundry in Springfield, Ohio, the same company that has been casting the iron plates for all Steinway pianos since 1938. The foundry created the miniature plate using a pattern that Gentile machined and prepared after taking hundreds of measurements from a full-size Steinway plate and transferring the dimensions to a smaller scale. The sand recipe for the mold was customized to capture all the surface details on the plate. It took many attempts to achieve the final casting. Given the rarity of this piece, one mistake in drilling any of the holes for the hitch pins or tuning pins would have ended the entire project.
Gentile finished the art case of the piano with a meticulously-crafted replica of the original instrument, complete with its exquisite top mural, intricate carvings, expansive gilding, and ornate legs. Every piece of the piano was executed with careful consideration for exact replication of the original components created by Steinway & Sons craftsmen. The final piece is an homage to an iconic piece of musical tradition and American history.