1822 Joséf Pagés

Cádiz, Spain

Joséf Pagés (c. 1762–c. 1822) was the son of one of the most famous of all six-course guitar makers, Juan Pagés of Cádiz. Joséf had three younger brothers (Antonio, Francisco, and Joaquín) who after working as journeymen for Juan, also made guitars under their own labels. Yet none were so prolific as Joséf and his father, who made guitars of exceptional quality. Joséf almost certainly apprenticed under his father too, but by 1801, he had his own workshop and declared himself a maestro instrumentista (master instrument maker).

Date 1822
Location Cádiz, Spain
Length of Guitar 1000mm
String Length 645mm
Upper Bout Width 215mm
Waist Width 173mm
Lower Bout Width 275mm
Side Depth at Waist 102mm
Soundboard: Spruce | Back: Tulipwood | Sides: Tulipwood | Details: Six-course guitar in original condition.

The 1822 Joséf Pagés guitar in the Austin-Marie Collection is a late entry for a six-course instrument, considering that the rest of Europe had already embraced the six single-string configuration years earlier. This begs the question: why did the Spanish fail to adopt single strings over courses at the dawn of the nineteenth century? It may have been the oppressive Spanish craft guilds, whose stringent rules reputedly stifled innovation and change, and/or the Peninsular War, coupled with internal conflicts that ravaged the Spanish economy and created significant dislocation. Despite these challenges, the Pagés family earned a reputation as fine craftsmen and were highly regarded by many of the leading virtuosos of the day, including Fernando Sor.

The Joséf Pagés guitar in this collection has a rare and particularly unique provenance: rare, because it is in its original condition (most six-course guitars from this period were later altered to accommodate six single strings) and unique, in that it was purchased in 1822 (the year it was made) by the Galliano banking family of Gibraltar, where it remained in the family for over a century and a half, before being sold at auction in 2008.

Its ownership is well documented, with a wet-plate photograph from 1865 showing the guitar being played at a Galliano family gathering, and a later photo taken in 1913 showing Andrew Galliano playing the guitar. (Both photographs appear in the book, The Smallest Bank in the World by Paco Galliano.)

The six courses of strings are tuned the same as today’s modern twelve-string guitar. This downward extension of the pitch was the final abandonment of the high re-entrant tuning of earlier double-course instruments from the Baroque era.

The soundboard is made of spruce and supported by five fan braces. The back and sides are made of beautifully figured tulipwood. The string length is 645mm, which is comparable to the standard string length of contemporary guitars, as opposed to the average length of 630mm for most nineteenth-century guitars.