1813 Gennaro Fabricatore I

Naples, Italy

There were two Gennaro Fabricatores, father and son, making guitars in Naples during the first half of the century: Gennaro I (c.1770–1844) and Gennaro II (1800–1853).  From the address on the label of the 1813 Gennaro Fabricatore guitar in the Austin-Marie Collection, we can conclude this guitar was made by the elder of the two, Gennaro I.

Date 1813
Location Turin, Italy
Length of Guitar 935mm
String Length 652mm
Upper Bout Width 230mm
Waist Width 163mm
Lower Bout Width 293mm
Side Depth at Waist 100mm
Soundboard: Spruce | Back: Flamed Maple | Sides: Flamed Maple | Details: Ornate, hand-cut ebony appliqué applied to the soundboard.

Gennaro Fabricatore I was the nephew of the renowned luthier and pioneer of the six single-string guitar, Giovanni Battista Fabricatore, and may have apprenticed under him early in his career. Gennaro continued the Fabricatore legacy of innovation by adopting new design features absent in his uncle’s instruments. These included metal machine heads, pin bridges, and a longer, deeper body. His guitars were also equipped with double linings inside the body to fortify the construction and a large nail to support the neck at the body joint. His violin-making pedigree may explain why he preferred backs made of flamed maple.

The most striking and defining feature of Fabricatore’s guitars were their elaborate bridge mustachios: ornate hand-cut ebony appliqués of twisting vines applied to the soundboard. Both Gennaros took the florid bridge mustachio to its height of decorative embellishment in the nineteenth century. This feature may have caught the eye of the flamboyant violin virtuoso, Niccolò Paganini, who owned and composed on an 1826 Gennaro Fabricatore guitar (similar in design to the 1813 and 1829 examples in this collection). One can imagine Paganini’s extravagant stage personality being attracted to a lavishly decorated soundboard.

Even though the Fabricatores were instrumental in introducing the stringing and tuning of the modern guitar, as the middle of the nineteenth century approached, they failed to keep pace with many contemporary trends. All six of the Fabricatores in this collection, for example, see their necks meet the body at the 11th fret versus the octave, or 12th fret – as in a modern guitar. They lack raised finger boards and favor single-piece backs over the modern guitar’s book-matched two-piece design.