CAESAREA : A rare piano that could fetch more than a million dollars at auction in Israel next week has a history as elaborate as the wood carvings adorning its frame.

The Piano of Siena's 221-year journey began in Turin and has included stops in Paris, a second world war, battlefield in North Africa, New York and Tel Aviv.

Moshe Porat, an Israeli piano runer who has researched the instrument, told AFP the light brown upright decorated carvings of wingless cherubs, animals, flora and other instruments was a ''visual masterpiece''.

''Soon the next chapter will begin with a new owner,'' Porat said, referring to the sale scheduled for this Tuesday at Winner's auction house in Jerusalem.

Turin-based harpsichord maker Sebastian Marchisio started building the instrument in 1799, according to Winner's.

Marchisio died before completing it but his descendants finished the initial build in 1825, giving it as a wedding gift to Marchisio's granddaughter Rebecca, who lived in Siena.

The unusually ornate instrument under went several modifications before appearing at the 1867's World Fair in Paris before being gifted to Italy's then-prince and future King Umberto !.

The exact circumstances that saw the piano fall into Nazi hands are not clear.
But following the 1942 battle of EI Alamein, as the British were looking to see what the defeated Germans had left behind, ''the piano was discovered in a crate with a mine detector,'' said Porat.

''They were astonished to see a piano inside buried in the desert's sand,'' he said. [AFP]


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