1795 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore

Naples, Italy

Giovanni Battista Fabricatore of Naples (c. 1750–1812) was the patriarch of four generations of luthiers who manufactured violins and guitars from the late eighteenth through mid-nineteenthcenturies. As a pioneer in the development of the six single-string guitar, Fabricatore created instruments with distinctive design elements.

Date 1795
Location Naples, Italy
Length of Guitar 910mm
String Length 632mm
Upper Bout Width 209mm
Waist Width 166mm
Lower Bout Width 272mm
Side Depth at Waist 59mm
Soundboard: Spruce | Back: Pinewood | Sides: Pinewood | Details: Rosette is encircled with mother of pearl, foliate-shaped vines.


Similar to the 1785 and 1796 G. B. Fabricatore guitars in the Austin-Marie Collection, the 1795 guitar has a rather shallow body and a relatively narrow neck width of just 35mm – considerably narrower than the necks of guitars produced in France and Spain at that time. The back and sides are made of rosewood-stained pine. The mother-of-pearl foliate shapes intertwined like vines around the sound hole are a common feature of Fabricatore’s rosettes. The flowing applied bridge mustachios were cut from a single piece of ebony veneer. The overall appearance is somewhat understated when compared to Giovanni’s more ornate models, which would include the 1796 guitar in this collection adorned with close to a thousand pieces of hand-cut pearl.

Giovanni’s nephew, Gennaro I, continued the tradition of building guitars with narrow necks. This design was embraced by the acclaimed early-nineteenth-century guitar virtuoso Mauro Giuliani who played an 1809 Gennaro I guitar. This leads to an important technical and compositional feature regarding Giuliani’s employment of the left-hand thumb for fretting the occasional bass note.

It is only the narrow necks of the Italian and Viennese guitars, which Giuliani was known to prefer, that accommodated this technique. It follows that when playing Giuliani’s music on a modern classical guitar, it is not possible to employ the thumb-fretting technique. Consequently, some passages in his music are rather awkward to play. It’s interesting to note that Giuliani’s contemporary Dionisio Aguado did not advocate using the thumb for fretting and therefore preferred guitars by Lacôte of Paris, who typically built his necks with a width in the vicinity of 50mm.

Fabricatore was a trailblazer in the history of guitar construction, developing instruments for the new musical language of the Classical era even as five-course guitars were still being produced.