c. 1790 Villaume & Giron

Troyes, France

The five-course guitar was played in Europe throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but by the 1780s, it fell into decline giving way to the six single-string instrument.

Date c. 1790
Location Troyes, France
Length of Guitar 932mm
String Length 650mm
Upper Bout Width 215mm
Waist Width 176mm
Lower Bout Width 278mm
Side Depth at Waist 96mm
Soundboard: Spruce | Back: Maple | Sides: Maple | Details: Late five-course guitar built without a finial rose.


Alexis Villaume and Claude Giron worked together from around 1789 into the 1830s in Troyes, France, located about halfway between Paris and Mirecourt. The Villaume & Giron guitar from around 1790 in the Austin-Marie Collection must have been one of the last guitars to be built in the Baroque style with its movable gut frets and five courses. The Classical Era, after all, was well along: Haydn had already written over 90 symphonies and Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte had just premiered.

Despite the changing musical landscape, five-course guitars were still being built in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and composers were still writing for them. Nevertheless, the transition from the highly embellished multi-course Baroque-era guitars to the simple and comparatively plain-looking six single-string guitars is evident in the Villaume & Giron instrument in this collection. It lacks any trace of a sunken Baroque rose and is unadorned compared to its predecessors. The back and sides are made of maple and the soundboard of spruce. The sound hole is relatively small.

Sadly, many fine five-course guitars in the eighteenth century were converted to a chitarra battente and later in the nineteenth century, had their neck, head, and/or bridges modified to accommodate six single strings. Fortunately, the Villaume & Giron in this collection has survived in its original condition and represents an important evolutionary link in the history of the guitar’s design and construction.