Even if you haven't just seen Inside Llewyn Davis, the allure of an old, beautiful guitar is self-evident. Now, 35 very old, very beautiful guitars are on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, waiting for those who appreciate a beautiful rosewood inlay and solid spruce top to come and feast their eyes (but sadly not ears).
In an exhibit that opened yesterday, the Met is showcasing the origins of American guitar-making and the early work of Christian Frederick Martin (whose name might be just a bit familiar to players, collectors, and music fans alike). Martin immigrated to New York City from Germany in 1833 before eventually settling in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. There, he drew from both Viennese and Spanish luthier techniques to establish the first American style of guitar-making and start what is still today one of the most iconic companies in all of music.
Early American Guitars: The Instruments of C.F. Martin runs until December 7th and features many instruments that were designed and built by Martin himself. Those with a
profoundly nerdy keen appreciation for the history of the instrument will also appreciate the Met's inclusion of several Austro-German and Spanish guitars that had a direct influence on Martin's work.
Amidst the priceless six-string relics, one (much younger) item is sure to stand out. Eric Clapton's 1939 Martin 000-42 is also included in the exhibit. Clapton played it in his 1992 MTV Unplugged performance, and it was sold at a 2004 auction for $791,500. Thanks to the magic of YouTube, you can listen to that very guitar...