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A cabinet card portrait of the musical prodigy Ernest Bonnay and his xylophone. According to an inked inscription on the reverse of the mount, the photograph was taken in April 1867, at which time the xylophone was considered a great novelty.

An advertisement in The Times on 16 May 1866 publicized Mademoiselle Pauline Lucca’s ‘First Grand Morning Concert in England on Monday, May 21, at the St James’s-hall.’ Among the many performers taking part, the advertisement mentioned ‘Master Ernest Bonnay will make his first appearance in England, and perform an Air Varié by Mayseder on the Xylophone’.

Another advertisement appeared on 22 May 1866. Bonnay was due to take part in a ‘Mr Benedict’s Grand Musicale Matinee’ at Dudley House on Friday 25 May. Also taking part were ‘eminent artistes from the Royal Italian Opera and Her Majesty’s Theatre.’

A series of further advertisements touted his appearance on Wednesday 13 June 1866 at a ‘Grand Opera Concert’ at the Royal Italian Opera in Covent Garden. According to a review in Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle (16 June 1866): ‘Master Ernest Bonnay played a novel kind of musical instrument called the Xylophone, his dexterity and easy manipulation of which led the audience to demand a repetition of the feat.’

On Wednesday 18 July he took part in a similar event at the same venue, with Adelina Patti as the main attraction.

In August of the same year he was appearing ‘every evening at 8’ at the Royal Italian Opera House as part of ‘Mr Alfred Mellon’s Concerts.’ According to a review in The Times (20 August 1866): ‘To this followed a solo on the xylophone by Master Bonnay, whose extraordinary talent deserves a better medium for display. After executing an air with variations (by Mayseder – originally for violin) with an accent, taste, and correctness beyond praise, he, at the universal desire of the audience, resumed his sticks, and played a lively waltz, (“The Birds of the Forest”), the composition of his father, which was applauded with the same enthusiasm. Master Bonnay, in his way, is really a phenomenon.’

A year later he was back at the same venue, when a review in The Times (16 August 1867) again singled him out for special praise: ‘The most thoroughly satisfactory of the instrumental solos were performed on that singular instrument, the xylophone, by “Le Petit Bonnay,” who gave the same pieces (he, too, being encored) as last year, and with the same perfection.’

Photographed at the London studio of the great Parisian photographer A.A.E. Disdéri. An extensive inked inscription verso in French explains exactly what a xylophone is and enthuses about Bonnay’s talent and repertoire, which included Rossini’s William Tell overture.

condition: The print presents some spotting, mainly in the area of the background, and a slight loss of
tone towards the upper edge of the image. The print is otherwise in excellent condition, as is the mount.
price:  SOLD
code: cc084
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