A Guitar by Etienne (?) Perrin fils, Mirecourt

By Kenneth Sparr

2007-07-18


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    The following pictures (kindly supplied by Chase Morrison) show a guitar which I bought from USA. It has some interesting features and my hypothesis is that this guitar was imported to USA from France in the early 19th century and later was transformed and changed c. 1830-1850.

    "E PERRIN FILS A MIRECOURT" is branded on the inside of the back.

    The guitar is simple in design but with a lovely figured reddish maple on back and sides. The interior shows a typical French design in barring etc. The design around the sound hole and the soundboard is similar to early French guitars by François Lupot and Jean-François Aldric, the latter also with connection to Mirecourt. The frets are metal, but not T-shaped like on modern guitars. The guitar is kept in its original (?) wooden coffin case. The guitar has several damages and has been repaired several times during its life.

    The basis for my hypothesis that this guitar came from France to the USA in the early 19th century and later was changed is the following:

    - the branded name indicates clearly that the guitar was made in Mirecourt by E. Perrin fils

    - the guitar has many typical French features of the early 19th century: body size, body outline, barring of soundboard

    - the guitar has some features that are not French: the extended fingerboard (normally the fingerboards of French guitars were flush with the soundboard), the bridge and the head

    - the bridge and the head are similar to American guitars of the mid 1850s (Martin, Martin & Coupa c. 1840). However, the head clearly differs in both its proportions and in the way the head is joined to the neck. The traditional Martin "diamond" which supports the glue joint is missing and the way the backside is cut is quite unlike Martin´s style. The conical "heel" at the neck - body joint is also more crude in style than Martin's work.  At that time, there were many others working in the USA who used Martin as a model.

    This guitar has been restored at the Carl Malmsten Centre of Wood Technology & Design, Department of guitar making as a project in a course for repairing and restoring of plucked instruments. The work has been supervised by Nicola Nerström, master guitar maker and head of the department. A decision was made to restore the guitar to its last change and to make it playable. The changes to the instrument have been as few as possible. A report on and a documentation of the restoring process has been made by Mats Nordwall:

    Restoration of a plucked string instrument TMTR08 - Guitar by Perrin fils à Mirecourt

    Restaurering av knäppinstrument TMTR08 - Gitarr av Perrin fils à Mirecourt (in Swedish)

     

    The restored guitar in its original (?) coffin case

    E. Perrin fils

    Lütgendorff says in his dictionary: "Perrin, fils, E. - Mirecourt. 1840. Gute Firma, die in ihren Geigen oft auch Paris als Ursprungsort nennt. Die Instrumente haben grosses Patron, gutes Holz und einen orangefarbigen Lack."

    Vannes gives some more information: "PERRIN, Etienne, né à Mirecourt vers 1785 - Il ne nous est connu que par un violon , vernis alcool, marqué en fer en forme de triangle: E. PERRIN & FILS A MIRECOURT."

    Poidras gives the following information in his Dictionnaire: " PERRIN - Mirecourt fin XVIIIe siècle. Les violons portant la marque au fer « Perrin » ou « Perrin fils » son légions. D'après la facture et le vernis jaune qui la pare , cette lutherie appartient à la catégorie ordinaire  de Mirecourt de cette époque."

    In one of Sotheby's catalogues the following item is described: "121 A Violin by E.J. Perrin fils, Mirecourt, circa 1850. Branded internally E. Perrin, fils, the one-piece back of irregular narrow curl ascending from left to right, the ribs of narrow curl, the head of medium to narrow curl, the table of medium grain opening out towards the treble flanks, the varnish of an orange-brown colour, length of back 14 5/16 in. (36.3. cm) £1,000-1,500". Another violin by Perrin, dated 1789 (cf. Vannes' birth date for Etienne Perrin), is in a museum in Canada.

    Another guitar by this maker is kept at the Staatliches Institut für Musikforschung, Musikinstrumentenmuseum in Berlin. This guitar is branded "E. PERRIN / FILS" and has the inventory number 5110. This guitar is at present undergoing restoration work in the museum by Heidi von Rüden. I have exchanged measurements and images with Heidi von Rüden and the similarities between the two Perrin-guitars are obvious.

    A third guitar  has the following branded on the inside of the back: " E. PERRIN / FILS / A PARIS" in a private collection is in very good and original condition. As was common among Mirecourt builders they sometimes stamped their instrument with Paris evne if they never left Mirecourt. The Paris address may have added more prestige!

    A fourth guitar also in a private collection is said to be marked "E. Perrin". This guitar has probably been heavily changed

    Ricardo Guida from Córdoba, Argentine, has generously provided information about a violoncello with the following branded on the inside of the back: “E PERRIN FILS / A PARYS”.  This confirms that E. Perrin also worked in Paris. Here are some other pictures of this violoncello: front, back and peg head. The pictures are kindly supplied by Ricard Guida.

    I'm grateful to John Huber, Heidi von Rüden , Françoise & Daniel Sinier de Ridder who has given valuable information about this guitar.

    If you may have further information please contact

    © Kenneth Sparr