The Joyce Story

The piano owned by James Joyce was a high quality instrument made by Anton Petrof, it was bought by Joyce at a time when he was earning barely enough to support himself and his family. The Photograph, presented by Vivien Igoe, shows Joyce in his flat in Trieste with the piano in the background.

The Piano owned by James Joyce during his years in Trieste (1905-1915).

Background

Music was very important to James Joyce. Many of the characters in his works are brought together by a common love of music; singers, songs, concerts and composers are mentioned frequently, and a whole chapter in Ulysses, in which a group of friends gather round the piano in a hotel bar, is devoted to music and its forms. Joyce himself was a very talented singer with a fine tenor voice and on at least one occasion sang in concert with the great John McCormack. He hired himself a piano in Dublin in 1904 to prepare for the Feis Ceoil (the national music competition, in which he won a medal), and when he took up residence in Trieste one of his first priorities was to buy a good piano for his apartment – the instrument which is now on display in the Dublin Writers Museum. He would have owned and used this piano while writing Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and when he started Ulysses in 1914.

Joyce’s sister Eileen who visited him in 1910, describes how Joyce would have breakfast in bed and rise around eleven, when he would sit down at the piano and spend the morning playing it, interrupted occasionally by bill collectors. At one o’clock he would have lunch and then give english lessons until evening.

Joyce, who left Trieste in 1915 and spent the war years in Zurich, returned there from 1919 to 1920 before departing Paris. The piano was left with his brother Stanislaus, whose widow presented it to the James Joyce Museum. It is now on a long term loan to the Dublin Writers Museum.

2001

The Joyce Piano was for many years prior to the year 2001 in a very distressed and unplayable condition due to in part to being resident initially in a very warm climate and later in a damp climate, with some neglect along the way.

The extensive reconstruction to the playing condition was carried out by Tynan Pianos, Dublin via the Courtesy of sponsorship by the Electricity Supply Board.

The instrument which is now on temporary display at the James Joyce Cultural Centre at 35 North Great Georges Street, Dublin. where it will be used on commemorative occasions.

The Piano during reconstruction.

The Piano as seen at the Joyce Cultural Centre.

The Piano as seen at the Joyce Cultural Centre.

The Piano as seen at the Joyce Cultural Centre.