Early Romantic Guitars: Gil de Avalle’s Private Collection Pages/ Guitarras Románticas: Pagés de la Colección Privada de Gil de Avalle

cropped-flamenco-guitar-gil-de-avale-negra-back-label2.jpg Boca Pages0002Gil de Avalle Pages Romantic Guitar Romantic Guitar ConstructionGuitarra Romántica Pagés


(Gil de Avalle’s Private Collection)

Life and work

Joséf Pagés was probably born in EcijaSevilla around 1740. His brother Juan Pagés also became a notable guitar maker. It is thought that Joséf was the first of the brothers to go to Cádiz around 1760. He established his workshop in Calle de la Almargura by 1809.[1] A leading member of the Cádiz school, Joséf, followed very closely all the innovations that Francisco Sanguino had introduced, but with the additional development of doming the soundboard with the struts, an approach that later makers such as Jose Recio, Antonio de Torres, and Francisco Gonzales also adopted.[2] Pagés started with systems of three braces, like the early guitars of Sanguino and Benedid; his later instruments used five.

His guitars greatly influenced Louis Panormo, who used similar fan strutting designs and similar proportions for the body of the guitar.[3]

The great Spanish composer and guitarist Fernando Sor thought highly of Pagés’s guitars, stating ‘The guitars to which I have always given preference are those of Alonso of Madrid, Pagés and Benediz of Cádiz, Joseph and Manuel Martinez of Malaga…’[4] The composer Dionisio Aguado also mentions the Pagés brothers as among the makers he would recommend. Joséf Pagés’s known surviving guitars date from the 1790s to 1822.


This is an incomplete list of the guitars that Joséf Pagés made.

  • 1791 – A six course Juan Pages instrument in the Granary-Guitars museum, UK.
  • 1805 – In the collection of the Royal Academy of MusicLondon.
  • 1809 – (no. 70) Plucked, struck and fretted guitar labeled “Josef Pages Me Hizo En Cadiz Ano de 1809 Calle de la Amargura N.70”. Length of back 455mm (17 15/16in), the soundhole surrounded by concentric circular dotted wood, with 16 nickel frets to soundhole, with later tied bridge, with some inked manuscript lining on the inner back and ribs, the head cut down with machines added for 6 strings, in lined and fitted mahogany brass mounted case. Sold 15 December 2009 for £8,160, inclusive of Buyer’s Premium, at Bonhams,[5]
  • 1810 – (no.30) In the private collection of Timothy Lawrence Williams (MA).
  • 1811 – In the collection of Ringve Museum, Trondhjem, Norway.
  • 1813 – The Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments Item #282 is a 6-course: (6 x 2) strings, 12 strings guitar.
  • 1818 – Mentioned in Romanillos, J.L., Bream, J. Antonio de Torres: Guitar Maker, His Life and Work (Bold Strummer, 1997) p. 94

Andrew Galliano, playing a guitar by Joséf Pagés.

  • 1822 – (no.177) Spanish Six-course guitar, labeled “Josef Pages Me Hizo En Cadiz ano de 1822” and inserted over top of label in script Calle del Sacremento in print no. 70 and inscribed over no 177. Length of back 455mm (17 15/16in); Upper bouts 217mm; Middle bouts 177mm; Lower bouts 281mm. The soundhole is surrounded by a band of inlayed white circles on a black ground with further concentric circles surrounding the sound hole. The six course head has 12 pegs, with 10 brass frets to the body with later bridge with an inalid cartouche under the bridge. The back and ribs is made of various coloured wood and shows some slight wear and tear due to use and age. The guitar has a soft black case. The guitar previously belonged to Antonio Maria Galliano (1841–1903) of the Galliano Bank. The guitar passed from Antonio Maria Galliano to his eldest son, Andrew (1875–1939). When Andrew died in 1939, the guitar passed to his only son, Jacinto, who died in 1967 without issue. Andrew’s widow, Ana Bonell de Galliano (1880–1969) gave the guitar to her nephew Francis (Paco) Galliano OBE, ex-Chairman of A.L. Galliano Bankers Ltd. On 10 March 2008, Francis Galliano sold the guitar for £6,600 at auction via Bonhams.

Source: Wikipedia

The Spanish School, 1800-1870 and the Birth of the Modern Guitar

……The guitars which I have always given the preference are those of Alonzo of Madrid, Pages and Benediz of Cadiz, Joseph and Manuel Martinez of Malaga…….” – Fernando Sor, “Method for the Spanish Guitar” English Translation of 1836, published by Tecla Editions.Spanish guitars of the 19th century, and the Panormo, are the most similar to the modern Spanish guitar of any 19th century builder. However, the Spanish guitar has changed considerably since then. Spanish guitars have had fan bracing since at least the 1700’s (older instruments do not survive, so it is impossible to know how far back this construction dates). Fan bracing is a distinguishing characteristic of Spanish guitars, pre-Torres and beyond. Spanish guitars share the mellow, singing quality that is still embodied in the modern guitar, though today’s guitar is physically larger.The most famous Spanish builder was no doubt Antonio de Torres. Although Torres is sometimes credited with inventing the modern guitar, the construction characteristics of Torres guitars can be found in other Spanish builders of his day and in earlier periods.The Spanish school is sometimes described as a delayed initial response and slow decay, with heavy bass dominance. The French and Viennese schools were also excellent sounding, with a different sound characterized by a more rapid attack and a treble or midrange dominance.Much credit for the Spanish school should go to Juan Pagés, as these guitars were fan braced since around the 1790’s, and formed the basic architecture of the Spanish design. Spanish Baroque guitars were fan braced since the 1700’s. Juan Pagés was highly recommended by both Sor and Aguado. The basic body shape of the Spanish guitars was established by the early 1800’s, and in turn evolved throughout the 19th century and even into today. It is widely said that Torres increased the guitar’s dimensions, but this same trend was happening in all the schools of construction at that time, and other examples of Spanish guitars contemporary with Torres show similar dimensions. Some original Torres guitars were much smaller than the modern guitar, and modern players often lose sight of the evolution in internal construction which occurred since then. Other Torres guitars, later ones, are almost as large as a modern guitar.


Antonio de Torres

Antonio Torres began building guitars during the end of the Early Romantic Guitar period. Torres is known for the style of guitar that is basically the modern classical guitar today. Torres built in two major epochs. Some Torres guitars were more similar to existing Martin, Martinez, and Pages guitars of the day, with smaller scale lengths and smaller bodies. Other Torres guitars, and the performers who popularized this design, launched the late Romantic and subsequent modern era of the guitar.
Common Torres Misconceptions:

  • Torres did not invent the Spanish guitar. He built very much in the style of other Spanish builders. Other guitars from that period from Spain have a nearly identical design and shape.
  • Torres did not use different woods than other builders. Spruce tops have been used for centuries. Maple and Rosewood were common on guitars from 1800 and older, and Torres built with maple, rosewood, and cypress as did other builders of his day. Tarrega’s guitar was maple back and sides, common in other romantic guitars.
  • Torres typically did not use better materials than other builders. Surviving instruments show that old pieces of furniture (with nail holes patched), mis-matched pieces, 4-piece backs, knotted wood, etc., were used: Torres was in poverty and often used cheap materials. He was a talented builder with good craftsmanship despite having poor materials.
  • Torres did not invent fan bracing. The fan bracing system was typical of Spanish classical guitars dating back to at least the 1750’s based on surviving dated instruments. It was common in the late 18th and early 19th century Spanish instruments. Panormo guitars in the 1830’s also show 7 fan braces, and 8 fan braces in the 1840’s.
  • Torres did not invent the tie block for fastening the strings. This was used on Spanish guitars at least as far back as the Baroque guitar.
  • Torres did not invent or introduce mechanical tuners. These were introduced around 1823. The Lacote bottom mounted, enclosed tuners, remains a brilliant design to the explosed gears of the modern classical guitars which is fundamentally unchanged since the 1820’s. The Viennese scroll-headstock design with 6-a side tuners (like a Fender Stratocaster) is also an attractive and functionally effective design.
  • Torres did not invent the dimensions and size of the guitar. The upper / lower bout proportions had been done in various ways by Martin, Guadagnini, Panormo, and other Spanish makers. Torres took some elements from each style to craft his own style. It should be noted that original Torres guitars were smaller than today’s modern classicals with a slightly different sound; the modern guitar has evolved and gotten bigger since Torres. A true Torres copy would be an interesting period guitar for Spanish music of the second half of the 19th century.
  • Tarrega did not have any known involvement in guitar design. It was Tarrega’s teacher, the great maestro Julian Arcas who worked with Torres to design his guitar in the 1850’s and 1860’s, when Tarrega was a child. Tarrega later obtained a Torres guitar, and popularized the instrument design.
  • Torres guitars are not louder than all other romantic guitars. Loudness varies by instrument, and a larger size does not automatically mean greater volume.
  • Torres guitars do not have “better” sonority or resonance than romantic guitars. These are subjective matters of taste. They may sound different, but neither is “better” per se.
  • Torres did not increase scale length. Spanish guitars in 1790 had 660-670 scale, larger than today’s 650 scale. Many early French guitars from 1800-1820 were 650 scale. Stauffer made 590-647 scale, and Lacote made 635-650. In those days it depended on the size of the customer’s hands. Torres made scales from 605-650, according to his customer’s wishes and hand size.
  • Torres guitars were not immediately viewed as superior to other designs. Torres lived in poverty and never achieved commercial success. French and German designs similar to Lacote and Stauffer prevailed until the 1920’s, when Segovia’s influence popularized Spanish instruments.
  • Torres did not eliminate ornate designs, nor was it believed this affects the sound. The exhibition Torres guitar replica by Brian Cohen was very ornate. The lack of ornamentation was a reflection of economic adversity by Torres and the budget constraints of his clients.

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