1822 Louis Panormo

London, England

Louis Panormo was England’s most influential guitar maker during the first half of the nineteenth century. Panormo’s first known guitar, the 1816 in the Austin-Marie Collection, stands alone as the only verifiable example of his work until 1822. From that year, only four guitars are known to have survived: two in private collections, one in the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, and the one featured here in this collection.

Date 1822
Location London, England
Length of Guitar 927mm
String Length 640mm
Upper Bout Width 212mm
Waist Width 165mm
Lower Bout Width 286mm
Side Depth at Waist 82mm
Soundboard: Spruce | Back: Maple | Sides: Maple | Details: Beveled-block bridge with pearl tear drops off each side; mechanical tuners with metal buttons.


When comparing the 1816 to the 1822, the similarities are immediately apparent. Both have the same simple “Panormo Fecit London” labels found on Panormo’s early guitars.  Neither guitar is adorned with the lavish pearl inlays typical of the Mirecourt luthiers, nor the decorative bridge mustachios of the Neapolitans. Instead, Panormo’s work is tastefully understated and continued to be so throughout his career. The obvious outside influence can be seen in the design of his rosettes. Both the 1816 and 1822 have off-set square pearl shapes encircling the sound hole, a motif used by the Spanish makers Manuel Martínez of Málaga and Juan Pagés of Cádiz.

The differences between the two instruments are apparent as well. The 1816 has a plain rectangular bridge and undistinguished head shape, whereas the 1822 introduces two design elements that were to become Panormo trademarks for the remainder of his career: a raised beveled block bridge, with teardrops branching off each side ending in a pearl button, and his signature crescent-shaped headstock. Gone are the friction pegs found on the 1816, now replaced by mechanical tuners with metal buttons. The London makers were not the first to use mechanical tuning machines, but they were certainly the first to widely adopt this new invention.

The back and sides of the 1816 are made of rosewood, a favorite material of the Spanish, while the 1822 uses maple found on French-style instruments. Panormo soon decided upon two distinct models of guitar: one to satisfy the many guitarists in London who wanted Paris-school guitars, and another for those who sought instruments of the Spanish school. These are loosely classified as “French-style” maple guitars and “Spanish-style” rosewood guitars, but neither fully belongs to one school or the other.  Many of his early “Fecit” labelled Spanish-style guitars, for example, lack the fan bracing used by Spanish luthiers. Eventually, Panormo’s eclectic design would include fan bracing in addition to mechanical tuners, slightly arched fingerboards, and pin bridges that pierced the top.