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The Four Seasons
Purchase, Abraham J. & Phyllis Katz Foundation Gift, in memory of Michael Allan Katz, 2017
Episode 7 / 2017
Featured Work

Each guitar is also designed and decorated to reflect the mood of one of the seasons of the year..."

It is very rare for a master luthier to build a complete ensemble of instruments that are intended to be used together. The "Four Seasons" quartet of guitars by John Monteleone was conceived as just such an ensemble—each instrument, built with its own individual voice, functions well as a solo guitar as well as part of the group. The sound of each guitar is given its respective voice by the selection of woods, the way in which it was carved by Monteleone, the shape and size of the body, and the configuration and placement of the soundholes.

Each guitar is also designed and decorated to reflect the mood of one of the seasons of the year. "Winter" has a natural light-blond lacquer finish with inlays of white mother-of-pearl, sterling silver, and white diamonds. "Spring" has a light blue finish and floral motif decorations, while "Autumn" has a golden color and soundholes that are serrated like the edges of autumn leaves. "Summer" has a yellow to red sunburst finish and a large scroll on the bass side of its body reminiscent of members of the mandolin family.

The "Four Seasons" guitars were built as a one-of-a-kind ensemble by Monteleone for himself between 2002 and 2006. Monteleone used fine quality tone woods that he had collected over many years, as well as precious materials including gold, silver, diamonds, rubies, and coral stones, for decorative appointments. All four instruments are archtop guitars, acoustic instruments with carved, slightly convex arched tops and backs, based on the construction principles of the violin family. All four guitars also have side soundholes that face the musician and provide a better sound than is usually heard by a guitar player. On the interior of each guitar Monteleone painted or inlaid vignettes that are thematic to the season represented by the guitar. These intimate decorative elements are private scenes that were intended only to be seen by the guitarists who played the instruments.

Jayson Kerr Dobney
Frederick P. Rose Curator in Charge
Department of Musical Instruments
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