Guitar, Spruce, ebony, ivory, tortoiseshell, mother-of-pearl, brass, Italian


ca. 1800
probably Naples, Italy
Spruce, ebony, ivory, tortoiseshell, mother-of-pearl, brass
Height: 36 in. (91.4 cm)
Width: 10 5/8 in. (27 cm)
Depth: 3 7/8 in. (9.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1969
Accession Number:
Not on view
This highly decorated guitar is also an early example of a six-string, single-course guitar. The elaborate decoration features classical figures, musical instruments, and floral motifs made from ebony and fit into an ivory ground covering the back, sides, neck, and headstock of the guitar. A second guitar at the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments features the same decoration, only in reverse, indicating that the decoration was made at the same time by cutting through thin layers of stacked ebony and ivory. A portrait in the center of the upper back is believed to be of Giovanni Paisiello based on his 1791 portrait. Paisiello was a composer of opera and many of his works were transcribed for use on other instruments and his pieces were a favorite of guitarists. The fingerboard is covered with tortoiseshell over read paint with an ivory satyr inlaid where the neck meets the body. A carved wooden rosette may be a replacement and is surrounded by an ivory hexagon with ebony inlaid instruments and flowers matching the back. The decorative style is evocative of so-called Baroque guitars of the seventeenth century. The six-string, single-course guitar became popular in Naples at the end of the eighteenth century and then spread throughout the rest of Europe replacing the earlier five and six double-course guitars.
Vladimir Bobri , New York
"Guitar Heroes: Legendary Craftsmen from Italy to New York." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (2011), pg. 13-14, ill.

Pleasing Eye and Ear Alike. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1971, Vol. XXX, No. 2, pg. 71, 73, ill.