18th September 2015
New Torres guitar discovered
Labelled: Por D. Antonio de Torres/ Sevilla Calle de [Cerragerra] Núm. [32.]/ AÑO DE 185
A spruce soundboard with five gable shaped fan-braces and two diagonal ones. The inlaid rosette of rosewood with yellow coloured wooden concentric circles. A three-piece back and sides of cypress. The neck and head of cedar, with rosewood fingerboard and eighteen bar-shaped metal frets. The head faced with rosewood, fashioned with mortises with square ramps to accommodate later tuning machines with bone buttons. A bone nut, saddle and tie-block cap. String length 561mm, length of back 460mm. In the original reconditioned case, with documents of examination and authentication by José Romanillos dated 22 July 2014.
This is a rare example of an early work by Antonio de Torres (1817 – 1892), made during the same year as those catalogued by Jose Romanillos as FE03, owned by the Maestro Pepe Romero and FE04, the famous ‘La Leona’; Torres’ personal guitar, but famed by Juliàn Arcas. It is not known how many guitars Torres made before these ones, but it is apparent that he was already a skilled and accomplished luthier.
Torres’ exceptionally gifted talent was in that he knew exactly how to work the wood, no matter the quality. He sometimes produced a guitar from scraps that no maker would contemplate using today, and would then turn these into a guitar that few other makers could ever achieve. This also applied to the type of wood (species of tree) he used, whether rosewood, mahogany, maple, or like this 1856 guitar, of cypress – all types were used for his concert models. It was not until later in the century when the differentiation of woods for specific styles of playing became the norm. Many professional guitarists, including Arcas – already mentioned, but also Daniel Fortea, Matilde Cuervas (Emilio Pujol’s wife), Federico & Manuel Cano, José Martínez Toboso and his student José Rojo y Sid, played Torres guitars made of cypress, such as this example.
Recently, this 1856 Torres was sensitively restored to playing condition, while retaining its main original features. For authentication purposes, the 1856 Torres ticks all of the required the boxes, showing unequivocally his hand in the making of this guitar:
- Torres’ handwriting on the original label;
- the shaping of the fan-braces;
- the non-scalloping of the harmonic and back bars;
- his unique pencil lines
- the glue-lines between the neck and the heel, and the neck and the head, just to mention a few.
One rare (but not unique) feature, however, is the shape of the head. It is different from the classic Torres triple-arch typically associated with his guitars. This is also seen on FE07 from 1857 and the circa 1853 guitar sold at Christie’s, New York in 2008. The inspiration behind this head design appears to be from the influence of Manuel Gutierrez, with whom Torres is thought to have shared shop space with at Calle de la Cerregeria when he first moved to Seville. Diego Salazar, another luthier from Seville, also sporting this design, perhaps making it an early Sevillanos trait.
There are fewer than sixty known people in the world who are fortunate enough own a genuine Torres guitar. This number, due to ownership being transferred to the same fortunate collectors, is ever decreasing. With Torres guitars commanding record prices for Spanish guitars, commonly exceeding £100,000 (for example: Brompton’s lot 168, 27 October 2014 – hammer plus premium), this is an exceedingly rare opportunity to acquire one at an ‘affordable’ price.
Please contact Brompton’s for further information.