Marvelous Mozzani!
The Incredible Harp Guitars of Luigi Mozzani
by Gregg Miner

Chapter 3: Mozzani's Inspiration

If there was anyone more outrageous in guitar design than Luigi Mozzani, it was Freidrich Schenk (or Schenck), of Vienna. I have yet to find much information on Schenk - hopefully, my German counterparts and others in Europe will continue to piece together information on him.  It's interesting that Mozzani's distinctive harp guitar designs are so renowned, and yet it was Schenk who created the original, even more spectacular, versions - and he did it apparently out of thin air! Schenk seems to have been the first in history to come up with both the single hollow arm form termed "bogenguitare" and a continuous double arm ("lyra") form of harp guitar (when Mozzani created his versions, he referred to both as "chitarra-lyra" [lyre-guitars]).  The actual years of Schenk's production remain unknown to me - dates I've seen attributed to these instruments range from 1830-1870.  Many other makers copied the Schenk designs some decades later. About 1909, Mozzani discovered them as well, and rather than simply duplicate them, he essentially re-invented them with new novel features. NOTE 2


I don't know which form Schenk created first - the single arm or the dual arm models. Both were certainly unprecedented in their day - and if fact, in any day. To me, they still top the Mozzani designs!

Germans and Italians generally refer to these double arm instruments as "lyra" guitars. I have no idea what Schenk himself called them. 

Schenk, 1839 Schenk (built for Dubez) Unknown, attributed to Schenk, c.1850

Schenk, repaired and modified by Mozzani.

(Münchner Stadtmuseum)

There is virtually no visual difference between Schenk and Mozzani bodies of this style - only the headstock/tuner region. This is actually a Schenk that was modified by Mozzani many decades later. If you look closely, you can see the patch on the left, below the tuners, where Mozzani patched in his own style of headstock design. The patch on the right is near invisible. Mozzani also replaced the entire neck.

Schenk's one-arm models were either called, or became known as, "bogengitares" - or "bowed guitars" (aka "bowed" or "arched") - presumably referring to the shape of the arm extension. It's interesting that neither of the names of Schenk's form's ever included reference to the sub-bass or "harp" strings!

Bridge replaced with a Coste-style type

Schenk, Vienna, c.1840-1850

As novel and unusual as Schenk's designs were, they apparently were popular and well-regarded enough to spawn many imitations and copies - both contemporary with his time, and even decades later, contemporary with Mozzani's new variants.

Lagler, 1852

Hans Raab

Karl Müller, 1904, Augsburg, Bavaria

Felix Seboldt, Munich, 1925

Seboldt Seboldt Max Klein, 1930
(suspected, not verified)
NOTE 2. I've never seen discussed exactly which specimens of Schenk's instruments Mozzani saw. Only the general term "chitarra-lyra" is mentioned. Presumably Mozzani saw both main Schenk types, the dual-arm "lyra" form and the one-arm "bogenguitare" form (in both "hourglass" and "wappen" shapes) - as he made his own versions of both.

        Credits/Sources: See Table of Contents

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