James & Henry Banks
(1758 – 1831)
James and Henry Banks (1758-1831 and 1770-1830) assisted their father, Benjamin until his death in 1795, and continued his business in Salisbury until 1811 before moving to Liverpool where they worked until 1831. Although instruments are labelled to indicate a partnership between the two brothers, Henry’s skills involved the ...Read More pianoforte, and signatures inside these instruments reveal that James was the only maker. Distinguishing between the work of Benjamin Banks and James is to an extent academic because they continued the same tradition from father to son, and because many of the instruments sold by the two brothers appear to be stock, or comprise parts inherited from their father. Nevertheless, later instruments including those made in Salisbury from about 1790 have a more transparent varnish closer to London work of the same period and in contrast to the milky and opaque varnish used earlier. Likewise scrolls tend to be crisper and classically cut, contrasting with the rounded chamfers and deep undercutting that typifies Benjamin Banks, and in the final years before his death in 1795 the contrasting hands of father and son can be seen of different instruments. Their work is relatively rare, often unlabelled and unstamped, and made to varying degrees of quality. To complicate matters further, many instruments were unfinished upon his death in 1831, and were sold into the London trade to be completed. At his best, surviving works hint that James was a superior maker than his more famous father. BH.
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