View Full Version : History of a Giacappazzi Bowl type mandolin???

Apr-17-2010, 3:51pm
I am hoping someone can give me some insight about a Giacappazzi y Figlia Bowl type mandolin. It seems this mandolin was made in Catania Sicily by Giacappazzi and sons at or before the turn of the 1900's. The tuning pegs and gears are hand crafted out of wood and are not metal. The case it came in is dated 1840 and has a simple hook, rather than a latch; may not be original case.
I am wondering if anyone knows of the Giacappazzi designers/builders, how old the mandolin might be and what its value could be. Since I don't have the mandolin in my possession I don't have any pictures. If pictures would help I can try to get a few.

Bob A
Apr-18-2010, 4:48pm
I've not heard of this maker; my reference materials are elsewhere, and I'll have to take a look tomorrow.

Pictures would be nice. I've never heard or seen wooden-geared tuning machines, and would certainly like to see them. Pictures of both sides of the headstock, the label, top side and back views of the instrument, and close-ups of parts you think are particularly noteworthy would all help a lot. You might consider posting them in the "Classical" section, as that's where the majority of the bowlback aficionados live.

Bruce Clausen
Apr-18-2010, 7:49pm
Fascinating. Yes, by all means let's see some photos. A friend of mine told me his grandfather in the Ozarks once built a cuckoo clock *entirely* out of wood. Mind you, he may not have required great accuracy.

By the way, does it really say "Giacappazzi y Figlia"? Giacopazzi is a reasonably common name, and I think we'd expect "e figlio" or "e figli". (Not that any of these variants turns up any info.)


Bob A
Apr-19-2010, 10:47pm
I was unable to find any reference to this maker, but my sources are limited. Tried a list of mandolin-makers in an article in American Luthierie, but that was focused on Neapolitan makers. Bone had no mention. I looked in Henley and Jalovec, but they're primarily interested in violin makers; still, there's frequently carryover, and many of these folk made fretted instruments as well.

I can't recall ever seeing the name before, though I've only been looking into Italian mandolin makers for less than a decade. I'd sure like to see some photos. A picture is worth a lot in evaluating this sort of thing.

Apr-29-2010, 3:50pm
Thank you for you reply on this matter. I have a few pics and new "accurate" information. As you will see in the provided pics the tuning lugs/keys are metal and not wood. Also, you will notice there is a label on the inside of the Mandolin, while it is true the name is Giacappazzi, the seller tells me it says Giacappazzi e. Figli, which makes sense. Once again any information you may have from the new enlightened info, i would greatly appreciate. Thank you.

Bob A
Apr-29-2010, 6:41pm
Headstock is similar to the Vinaccia style. Tuners and tailpiece are typical Italian, looks like late 19th century. Binding and fretboard finish somewhat coarse, as is the belly wood. Reasonably high rib count, looks like >25, which can be a sign of quality. Nice inlay around soundhole. Pickguard looks like tortoise, common in the period. Can't tell from the photo, but sometimes a bit of gilding was done under the guard, which shines thru the more transparent areas in a charmong fashion.

On the whole, it appears to be a turn of the century Italian mandolin of medium quality, by a maker unknown to me. If the neck is straight and can be brought to tension without a warp, it could be a decent player. Bearing in mind that makers of decent Italian mandolins generally produced worthy instruments at all price points, this might well be a decent player's instrument.

I wouldn't put much money into it if it needed serious repairs, like a neck problem. But it's worth stringing up (with very light strings, like GHS 240) to see what it can do. I would expect to find it at retail for about $150-250, depending on how it plays.

Apr-29-2010, 6:51pm
Sounds right to me. Classic example of the Neapolitan style. Looks like a middle-class instrument, so it all depends on the sound. Some can be surprisingly good- many excellent sounding instruments are not fancily decorated.

Jim Garber
Apr-29-2010, 8:13pm
Can you photograph or at least read off the label? Does it say Catania? As others have noted, it looks like many of those coming out of Napoli.

Apr-29-2010, 9:35pm
At first I thought the tuner arrangement seemed odd, and then a survey of my files showed the same mix in ROTM Italian bowlbacks of over/above gearing that we see in American bowls.

My experience with these Italian bowlbacks has been similar to that with GreatLakesRim mandolins: some have been of surprisingly enjoyable quality for playing or in sound quality-others, well, muy sketchioso. It is like hunting the wine list at an old restaurant in Chicago or in some obscure village in Umbria. This instrument looks suspiciously Stridente, DeMureda, Lanfranco, etc-esque, which like many central Italian wines were no doubt fortified by products from Sicily. Plami and Victor both have hinted at the possible Catanian source for (at least parts of the) mandolins labeled 'Napoli'. I am very fascinated by that. To see a 'Catania' label on one such would only add to the intrigue. BTW I have a Stridente labeled bowl of almost identical features to La Giacopazzi, (senza che l'asimmetria non intenzionali di questo) that Jim 'convinced' me I needed to buy. While very modest, it is a delight to play by any measure, even more so because I connect it with mi buen amigo.