Guitar, ca. 1800


Guitar, ca. 1800
Spruce, ebony, ivory, tortoiseshell; 10 7/16 x 3 11/16 in. (26.5 x 9.3 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1969 (69.29)

This highly decorated guitar is unusual for the time it was built and recalls more decorated Baroque instruments, yet it was originally constructed with six strings, which dates it about 1800. The back bears an image of the Neapolitan composer Giovanni Paisiello (1740–1816), whose operatic works were a favorite of nineteenth-century guitarists.

A second guitar, now in the Yale University Collection, bears nearly the identical decoration of the Metropolitan example, except in reverse coloration (see images: front and back). The valuable materials used to decorate these instruments, ebony and ivory, were stacked in sheets and the decoration cut at the same time through both. This allowed the builder to fit together the opposing colored pieces to create the intricate decoration while efficiently doubling the output.

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