Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Measuring the Checchucci Guitar at Boston MFA

This evening I'm in Boston having finished the first day of measuring the baroque guitar by Jacopo Checchucci, Livorno, 1628. Tomorrow I'll be back in the museum making templates of the arching of the back and recording things that I missed today. Several factors have bought me here. First for an Italian guitar, I've been building an anonymous model  since 1994. Although it has been successful for me, I thought it was time for a change. Second, I've been attending the Boston Early Music Festival for years, either as an exhibitor or just going to shows. While here I've visited the Museum of Fine Arts and admired their Checchucci guitar (acquired in 2002).

I emailed curator Darcy Kuronen to set up a visit. Darcy explained that even though the guitar is one of the few intact, nearly original Italian guitars from the first half of the 17th century, few builders have expressed an interest in it and no one has measured it. You can see from these two photos that it is an ornate guitar. But it is more than that. It is a comfortably sized guitar. The body measures 46 cm long with a string length of only 63 cm on a 10 fret neck. Stretched to 11 frets it is still 65 cm. Perfect.

I think it is rare to find a guitar that combines a beautiful aesthetic that is well crafted with important acoustical elements. The back  has a very high arch and the side ribs are angled inward around the  circumference of the body. I'm sure this will make an interesting model.

Both of these features are visible in the photo at right.

Kuronen is concerned about the securing the long term documentation of these instruments. It is one thing to display them to the public as artifacts but quite another to make them and drawings  of them available to interested builders to turn into living musical instruments. Darcy has arranged with a musical instrument draftsman to record important instruments in their collection.

 In the meantime, you can visit the MFA collection online at:

Scroll through the thumbnails to find the Checchucci guitar, a Berr baroque lute, an Alexander Voboam guitar and many other interesting instruments.  The Checchucci is in playable condition. Audio files of the it and the Voboam, recorded by Olav Chris Henriksen, are available on the these pages.

I will make my report on this guitar along with measurements and more photos available on this blog in the near future.

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