Paul Gentile, the Canadian artist who created the one-of-a-kind Steinway White House Piano in Miniature (mini.steinway.com), intended to make a second, but he was advised not to. That advice came from his neurologist. The doctor told him, “You had better make some decisions before your body does.” The 16 years Gentile spent working full-time on the piece, a 1:7-scale playable replica of the 1903 art-case piano that was in the White House for seven administrations (Theodore Roosevelt’s through Franklin Roosevelt’s), took a toll on his body and mind. He dislocated his shoulder twice, experienced bouts of uncontrollable spasms in his right hand, and occasionally suffered what he calls “mental spells.” Thus he abandoned his plan to duplicate his creation, a deviation from his standard operating procedure since he made his first miniature functional musical instrument, an alto saxophone, in 1993.
When the piano was completed last year, Steinway & Sons made it the first instrument produced outside the company to bear the brand name. Gentile has priced the piano at “no less than $15 million.” Though it is fully functional, he does not recommend tickling its ivories, because, he says, that would potentially put a damaging strain on the soundboard. Gentile relays the advice that Bill Youse, the head of Steinway’s restoration department, gave to him regarding playing the piano: “You did it. You made your point. Don’t push it.”