Sunday, February 17, 2019
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7 String Minstrel Banjo (maker unknown) , c. 1850's
7 String Model Minstrel Banjo (maker unknown), c. 1850's, natural varnish finish, mahogany neck, chesnut rim.
A spectacularly beautiful example of an early decorative minstrel banjo, most likely dating to the late 1850s or very early 1860s with five melody strings and two drone strings.
The fretless fingerboard, outer rim, and headstock face are elaborately decorated with tri-colored wood marquetry in a trompe de l'oeil three-dimensional box or "harlequin" pattern. The grafted headstock is a carved open curve shape with two large violin style pegs on the bass side and three on the treble side, the pegs having inlayed jeweled decoration in the outer edge.
The drone string tuners are mounted in a large grafted double bump on the neck, and are fed into holes to reach the tuning pegs. The deep rim has seven S-curved hooks with simple hex nuts mounted on elongated diamond shaped shoes. The tailpiece is carved wood with an inlaid ebony and pearl diamond, wired to the dowel extension.
Screwed to the rim in the tailpiece area is a brass plaque with an engraved rampant gryphon, partially covered by a bracket shoe. This appears as old as the rest of the banjo, and may be a mark of ownership…or an early repair! This instrument was certainly owned by someone of means when new, as it is quite fancy by the standards of its era.
Overall length is 34 3/8 in. (87.3 cm.), 11 3/8 in. (28.9 cm.) diameter head, and 3 9/16 in. (9 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim.
Extremely fine original condition for an instrument this old; very little evidence of play wear or use. The aged patina is very attractive with most hardware appearing undisturbed for the life of the instrument. Even the skin head appears period, quite possibly original.
There is a repaired lamination separation at the neck heel, and the neck finish appears unevenly tinted possibly as a result of work in this area. There are some small cracks and chips in the rim marquetry but no conspicuous damage. There is a small patched tear in the head which is barely noticeable from the front.
This instrument is set up with gut strings for display; currently there is a bridge fitted but the instrument is not tuned or tensioned. This banjo can be easily set up for play; in view of its age and historical interest, we will let the buyer decide. Excellent Condition.
Item # 1858
This item has been sold.
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