c. 1836 Etienne Laprevotte

Paris, France

Etienne Laprevotte (c. 1790–1856) was a skilled violin maker working in Paris during the first half of the nineteenth century. He is best remembered, however, for his fine guitars with their unconventional oval-shaped sound holes. Laprevotte built his guitars based on the principles of violin design; his maple backs were carved into an arch and lacked bindings. Most distinctively, he parted with traditional internal cross bracing to support the soundboard, opting instead to use two (sometimes four)  longitudinal bars that ran the length of the body, separated by an elliptical sound hole. By parting with the traditional harmonic bar system, Laprevotte’s design allowed for freer movement of the soundboard, thereby lowering the frequency of the Helmholtz resonance which created deeper and richer bass tones.

Date c. 1836
Location Paris, France
Length of Guitar 944mm
String Length 645mm
Upper Bout Width 207mm
Waist Width 153mm
Lower Bout Width 278mm
Side Depth at Waist 70mm
Soundboard: Spruce | Back: Birdseye maple | Sides: Birdseye maple | Details: Arched back with internal longitutudinal braces giving rise to an oval-shaped soundhole.


The size and design of both the c. 1836 and the 1839 Laprevottes in the Austin-Marie Collection seemingly addressed the demands of the Spanish virtuoso, Dionisio Aguado, who played an 1838 Laprevotte guitar.

Aguado states in his Escuela de Guitarra from 1825 that from the guitars he has played, “the ones made from maple, including the top, give better voices, especially those with domed backs.” That would mainly fit the description of the c. 1836 Laprevotte in this collection. Beyond the choice of woods and design, however, there are additional features in Laprevotte’s guitars that specifically address Aguado’s playing technique. This would include an applied ebony fingerboard that extends over the soundboard as opposed to frets embedded in the soundboard. This design increased the clearance between the strings and the top, and for a guitarist like Aguado, who played with fingernails, a raised fingerboard allowed for greater ease of playing.

Another innovative feature is the string length of Laprevotte’s guitars: at 643mm, the distance from saddle to nut on the c. 1836 in this collection is much longer than the average guitar from this period, and more similar to that of a modern guitar. By comparison, the string length of Panormo’s guitars averaged 630mm and Stauffer’s just 590mm.

The headstock was either modified or replaced in the nineteenth century by Journet of London, as his stamp can be seen on the top of the head. French guitars imported to England at this time often had their pegged headstock removed and replaced with mechanical tuners. The English were early adopters of tuning machines and broadly preferred them to pegs.