Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Lyre Guitar

Possibly Joseph Pons (French, born 1776) (probably a son of César Pons)
ca. 1805
Paris, France
Mahogany, spruce, ebony, brass, nickel-silver, gilding
Height: 34 1/4 in. (87 cm) Width: 14 3/8 in. (36.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Clara Mertens Bequest, in memory of André Mertens, 1998
Accession Number:
Not on view
This form of the guitar was created about 1785. The columnar arms supporting the yoke are veneered in mahogany. The guitar has six single courses of strings. A printed label inside the instrument reads: “Pons / fils / luthier, / Rue du Grand Hurleur / No. 5 / A Paris, an 13.” The phrase “an 13” refers to the thirteenth year (1804–1805) of the French Revolutionary Calendar.
Renaissance paintings by Lorenzo Costa and Raffaellino Garbo show lyre-guitars held upright (possibly interpretations of incised strings in classical bas-reliefs), as they were properly held by the player. Essentially, the lyre-guitar was a modified version of the lyre of antiquity, but with a fingerboard and six strings. English lyre-guitars were sold from 1811 as the six-string "Apollo" lyre of Edward Light and the twelve-string "Imperyal Lyre" of Angelo Benedetto Ventura.
Marking: (printed label within ornamental border) "Pons, fils/luthier,/Rue du Grand Hurleur/No. 5/A Paris, an 13."; (stamped on front of pegbox and on soundboard just below fingerboard) "Pons fils/à Paris"
Dangerous Curves: The Art Of The Guitar. Museum of Fine Arts. Boston, MA, 2001, pg. 53, ill.

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