Attributed to Matteo Sellas (German, Füssen ca. 1599–1654 Venice)
Spruce, bone, parchment, snakewood, ivory
Height: 37 5/8 in. (95.6 cm)
Width: 10 9/16 in. (26.9 cm)
Purchase, Clara Mertens Bequest, in memory of André Mertens, 1990
Not on view
During the 17th century, amateurs in Italy, Spain, and southern France used the guitar to accompany songs and arias or to play solo pieces. In Italy, Venice was the guitar-manufacturing center and Matteo Sellas its most eminent luthier. The style of the instrument with scalloped snakewood ribs, bone striping and fanciful arabesques are hallmarks of the Venetian tradition of lute and guitar making. Engraved bone plaques, geometric bone and snakewood inlays further enrich the beauty of this restored guitar. Between the end of the 16th and the end of the 18th century, guitars had five double courses of gut strings, a decorative parchment rose placed in the sound hole, and a back that was often vaulted instead of flat. As musical taste changed during the second half of the 18th century many old guitars were refitted to adjust to contemporary taste. The rose, bridge and pegblock of this instrument were removed and five single strings were added. Prior to its arrival at the Metropolitan Museum the old fittings were reintroduced.
Marking: "MS" scratched under top; false inscription "Matteo Sellas alla Corona in Venetia" engraved in plaque on head.
"Guitar Heroes: Legendary Craftsmen from Italy to New York." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (2011), pg. 8-10, ill.
"Recent Acquisitions: A Selection 1989-1990." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (1990), pg. 54, ill.