Royally treasured instruments among objects on display in the Target Gallery

Many of the instruments in Rediscover Treasures: Legendary Musical Instruments have connections to royal figures—some to monarchs throughout history, and some to modern musical royalty. Discover the regal ties of these treasured objects on display in the Target Gallery.

Pedal harp

Jacob Hochbrucker invented the single-action pedal harp around 1720, revolutionizing the instrument. His innovation quickly became one of the most popular instruments in the mid-18th century among the French aristocracy—even Marie Antoinette owned one.


This hitoyogiri—a Japanese flute once popular among samurai and refined nobles—is one of two known to be treasured by 14th-century emperor Go-Daigo. One of the oldest relics of its kind, it was believed to come in a pair; the other is preserved in the former imperial palace in Gojo City in Nara Prefecture.

Loan courtesy of the Takao Oikawa Family

Portrait of emperor Go-Daigo

“Beautiful” grand piano and stage wardrobe

Visionary artist Prince Rogers Nelson was one of the world’s brightest examples of contemporary musical royalty. He was known for his dramatic stage performances; he often danced atop his custom-finished purple piano during his Jam of the Year Tour. In 1993, Prince famously changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol, which is featured on the zipper pulls on these shoes from his stage wardrobe.

The zipper pulls on these shoes from Prince’s stage wardrobe were custom-made in the shape of his personal symbol.
Loan courtesy of The Estate of Prince Rogers Nelson and Paisley Park


This gilt bronze bell was cast in 1715 in an imperial workshop for Kangxi, one of the most important emperors in Chinese history. Sets of bronze bells were important to imperial orchestras because they were tuned to scales, providing a musical foundation.

The bell bears a cast inscription identifying its tone, and the elaborate suspension loop on the top forms a double-headed dragon.
Loan courtesy of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, transfer from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Portrait of the Kangxi emperor

“King George” vibraharp

Custom-made in the 1930s for Lionel Hampton, the “King of the Vibes,” this one-of-a-kind vibraphone is the only example built to the Deagan company’s deluxe trim level, visually highlighting Hampton as a sensational performer and one of the most important artists in jazz history.

Lionel Hampton performs on his stylish Deagan “King George” vibraharp.

Violin and viola

Andrea Amati, the “Father of the Violin,” likely crafted the violin and viola displayed at MIM around 1559. They belonged to a set of instruments celebrating the marriage of Philip II of Spain and Elisabeth of Valois, which unified the Catholic courts of Spain and France against the spread of Protestantism. The inscription on the viola’s ribs translates to “By this one bulwark religion stands and will stand.”

Loan courtesy of National Music Museum

These are just a handful of examples of the objects beloved by kings and queens in Rediscover Treasures. Whatever their connection to royalty might be, the instruments exemplify music’s enduring power. Explore pivotal moments throughout history and more of the world’s rarest and most historic instruments.

Presenting sponsor U.S. Bank

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Sponsored by Arizona Office of Tourism, John & Joan D’Addario Foundation, and John & Mary Ann Mangels

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