BAPCR: A newly discovered harpsichord lid by Frans II Francken

Transforming a painting into an instrument: A newly discovered harpsichord lid by Frans II Francken.

The collection of The Phoebus Foundation owns a large panel by one of the leading artists of 17th century Antwerp: Frans II Francken. It depicts Moses and the Israelites passing through the Red Sea. The painting was restored in 2021 and led to the uncovering of some striking aspects. What looked like a normal painting at first turned out to be something completely different, a lid of an extraordinary and rare harpsichord. During this talk the restoration and technical analysis of the painting will be discussed. Sven will show how the team of conservators could recognise and identify the instrument, how the object was altered during its history and how painters and instrument builders were working side by side in 17th century Antwerp.  

Sven Van Dorst (1990) obtained a master’s degree in conservation and restoration at the Royal Academy / University of Antwerp. After working at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, he completed his training at the Hamilton Kerr Institute, a department of Cambridge University. In 2016 he founded the conservation studio of The Phoebus Foundation. As head of the studio, Sven assembled a team of passionate conservators and conservation scientists who manage the Foundation’s collection on a daily basis. Among the paintings he has treated are works by masters such as Peter Paul Rubens, Jacob Jordaens, Anthonis Mor and Bartholomeus Spranger. Between 2017 and 2020, Sven led the research and restoration project of the Dymphna altarpiece by Goossen Van der Weyden.


Entry is free of charge to BAPCR members (please email [email protected] to request a Zoom invitation), and £5 for non-members.

Non-members can pay for tickets in advance by:

  • BACS transfer – NatWest, Sort code: 53 50 33, Account number: 5300 0757  
  • PayPal - When making payment, follow the instructions online. Click on “Send money” tab. Enter [email protected] when prompted.
  • Cheque – payable to the BAPCR, posted to: BAPCR, Rose Green, Broomham Lane, Whitesmith, BN8 6JQ

Please email Gemma Collins, BAPCR Secretary at [email protected] with your name and email address details when you pay for your tickets.