Harp Guitars and Related Instruments of Monzino & Sons

by Gregg Miner

This site has yet to fully explore and present the incredible instruments of Antonio Monzino and his sons, and also the many spectacular instruments made by little-known Milan makers that were built for the Monzino firm (with the Monzino label) and/or sold through the Monzino shop.  These instruments rival Mozzani for variety and design, and yet are completely different - and often much more elaborately decorated.  Many are dramatically different from anything seen before or since!

From the Fondazione Antonio Carlo Monzino comes this brief history (rough translation by Gregg Miner):

The Monzino House has been active since 1750 in the production and distribution of musical instruments. This long tradition strongly inspired the five Monzino siblings towards the responsibility of sharing with the community the "experience, competence and the acquired culture in the musical field of the Family" up to today.  This was realized on June, 1999 with the creation of the "Foundation Antonio Carl Monzino."  On that occasion, Antonio Monzino has donated to the Civic Museum of Musical Instruments of the Sforzesco Castle of Milan, a private collection of 79 antique musical instruments from the late 1600's to 1930, for giving to all and especially to the young generations the opportunity to admire what the human talent can construct.

THE FAMILY MONZINO: Over two centuries of luthiery in Milan

Antonio Monzino I (1730-1800) founded the House around 1750 in Milan.  In the laboratory (workshop), besides his own production, a lively business activity was born.  Under management by his son Giacomo Antonio Monzino II (1772- 1854) the company's acitivities in handcrafted instrument activity were integrated with the selling of strings, antique accessories and instruments.  A master of the violin and guitar, besides being a composer, Giacomo Antonio had many contacts with musicians of the era, and started the activity of music editor.  Antonio Giacomo Monzino IV (1874-1929) introduced new machinery for the working of wood and the fabrication of the wound strings continuing in the tradition of luthiery with the best Italian artists of the age.  He furthermore created the "Circle of the Mandolinists" and continued with successful activity in the publishing field. Antonio Monzino V (1885-1918) collaborated effectively within the family enterprise but unfortunately died young, at 32 years old, from a disease contracted in the war.  With Antonio Carlo Monzino VI (1909-) the diversification that the times demanded was put into effect through integration of the handcraft activity with the commercialization of a large range of Italian and foreign instruments.  Finally, Antonio Monzino VII (1938-) collected the spiritual inheritance of the family - believing in music as an essential componenet of an increased harmonious cultural.  He created for this scope the Foundation Antonio Carlo Monzino, for the spread of education through music.

11 of the 13 incredible instruments shown below are from the collection of Antonio Carlo Monzino himself - now on display at a new museum associated with the Fondazione Antonio Carlo Monzino.  Several makers are represented - including those who built for the Monzino label or whose instruments were sold through the Monzino shop, and also older, unrelated instruments from Antonio's personal collection.  I've taken the liberty of sharing these harp guitar and related instruments below - details are on their site, which has many dozen other wonderful instruments.

The shop of Antonio IV Monzino & Sons, Milan, 1914. Several harp guitars can barely be seen behind and to the right of the lyre-shaped guitar. And check out the family of bowed guitars!

Maker: Severino Riva

Year: 1911

School: Cremonese

Label: "Antonio Monzino & Figli"

6 sub-basses

 Maker: Luigi Galimberti

Year: 1910

Label: "Antonio Monzino & Figli"

8 sub-basses

Maker: Unknown

Photo courtesy Alex Timmerman

6 sub-basses

Maker: Armando Giulietti

Year: 1938

School: Lombardia

Label: "Armando Giulietti, Milano"

7 sub-basses

Maker: Innocente Rottola

Year: 1906

School: Cremonese

Label: "Antonio Monzino & Figli"

3 sub-basses

Maker:

Giovanni Gelmini

 

Year: 1844

 

School: Lombarda 

 

Label: "Giovanni Gelmini, Brescia"

 

3 sub-basses

These first three hollow arm harp guitars all share the same design, yet were built by different makers for the Monzino firm.  They include a different number of sub-basses and ornamentation - from gorgeous to spectacular! Giulietti instruments were sold through the Monzino shop. This is the most "normal" of the Monzino harp guitars, but wonderfully elegant and again incredibly ornate. An incredible early  instrument from Anotnio's personal collection.  I have never seen anything like this headstock design!

Maker: Anonymous

 

Year: 1900's

 

Label: none

 

Maker: Innocente Rottola

 

Year: 1906

 

Label: "Antonio Monzino & Figli"

Maker: Laboratorio Monzino

 

Year: 1920

 

School: Lombarda

 

Label: "A. Monzino & Figli"

This one is just too much!  A form of cittern, rather than guitar, with bourdon strings and a mechanism for changing pitch of the strings. 

An outrageous triple-neck (a guitar and 2 mandolins) - actually, a triple-body!

A unusual lyre-guitar.

Maker: Luigi Galimberti

 

Year: 1924

 

Label: "Monzino e Garlandini Milano"

Maker: Luigi Galimberti

 

Year: 1930

 

Label: "A.Monzino & Garlandini"

A somewhat different variation, actually quite a bit more graceful.
 From the Miner Museum

Label: "A. Monzino & Figli"

 

The shop altered the shape of the harp arm quite a bit.

Label: "A. Monzino & Figli"

From eBay sale 11/06

Maker: Unknown

 

Year: Early 1900's

 

School: Napoletana

 

Label: "A. Monzino e Garlandini"

"Harp" or hollow-arm mandolins, with wonderful carved headpieces. A lyre mandolin, or mandolira, fairly identical to the well-known Calace instruments.

If you enjoyed this page, or found it useful for research, please consider supporting Harpguitars.net so that this information will be available for others like you and to future generations. Thanks!

 


Harpguitars.net
Home

The Harp Guitar Foundation            The Harp Guitar Gathering

History          Players         Music         Luthiers         Iconography         Articles 

 Forum                 About                Links                Site Map                Search               Contact

All Site Contents Copyright  Gregg Miner, 2004,2005,2006,2007,2008,2009. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright and Fair Use of material and use of images: See Copyright and Fair Use policy.