1812 Juan Furnieles

Madrid, Spain

The Cádiz school of guitar makers, which included Pagés, Benedid, Pérez, Sanguino, and Martínez – all originating from the region of Andalucia in southern Spain – was well known for its guitar production in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. To the north, luthiers in Madrid were producing guitars too, but with a uniquely different body shape and decoration.


Date 1827
Location Turin, Italy
Length of Guitar 928mm
String Length 640mm
Upper Bout Width 274mm
Waist Width 205mm
Lower Bout Width 343mm
Side Depth at Waist 66mm
Soundboard: Spruce | Back: Applewood | Sides: Applewood | Details: Wider body than typical of the period.

Juan Josef Furnieles González was born in Madrid in 1763, and at the age of 15, was examined as maestro guitarrero y biolero by his father and uncle. In 1807 he applied for the title of guitar maker to the Royal Household. He stated that he had been making instruments for the Royal family for twenty years. However, for unknown reasons, his request was denied.

The Peninsular War was ravaging Spain in 1812 as the British army, helped by Spanish military units and militia, fought to expel Napoleon’s Grande Armeé. Furnieles had earlier left Madrid for the relative safety of Coruña on the North-western Spanish coastline, where he likely crafted the guitar in this collection. However, as the poem “The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna” by Charles Wolfe reminds us, Coruña itself was a battlefield in 1809. Unfortunately, because this guitar is the only extant guitar fully attributable to Furnieles, it is not known whether he returned to Madrid after the War – or if he even survived. The guitar’s history can only be traced back to wartime London, perhaps a souvenir of a returning British officer.

The 1812 Furnieles in the Austin-Marie Collection has a plantilla typical of the Madrid makers, but also stands out for its exceptional craftsmanship distinctly different than guitars made in Andalusia. The Furnieles guitar must have been one of the last musical-instrument cum-object d’art, which gave way to the understated appearance of the later six single-string Spanish-made guitars. The oversized intricately inlaid taracea rosette which reaches the matching purflings, meets with a burst of decoration extended to every possible expanse of the guitar, making it suitable for a Royal Patronage. The head carries silver appliqué ornaments of Empire embellishment. The bright inlays are largely of naturally colored woods however the green-colored inlays, so reminiscent of the later work of Antonio de Torres, were artificially produced. The veneers, incorporating cross banding and hot sand shading, are a masterclass of furniture-makers techniques.

Beyond its stunning appearance, it is one of the earliest guitars (if not the earliest) to incorporate both a raised fingerboard and a separate bridge saddle. There are three fan braces and curiously, it lacks back bars; instead, Furnieles chose to reinforce the rosewood back by lining it with mahogany.