Portuguese guitarra by Joaquim Pedro dos Reis, made 1764

This instrument is in the Museum da Cidade (City Museum) in Lisbon, Portugal. Pedro Caldeira Cabral refers to this instrument as the cítara popular (p. 141 in his A Guitarra Portuguesa (published by Ediclub--Edição e Promoção do Livro, Lda., Rua da Industria, 4, Alfragide, 2724-517 Amadora, Portugal). Some commentators believe this to be the instrument of the 19th century fadista, Maria Severa (1820-1846) who was amorosly linked to the Conde de Vimioso.



This instrument is similar to English guittars from the same period, however, it has 6 course of 12 strings whereas the English Guittar usually had 6 courses of 10 strings. The shape is close to that of the English guittar but the box seems deeper. Notice that the tuning pegs are inserted through the head which was typical of Portuguese fretted instruments as opposed to the English guittar which had watch-key threaded-rod tuners or wooden peg heads which are similar to violin peg systems with the pegs being inserted through the side of the peg box.

According to Pedro Caldeira Cabral the term Portuguese Guitar appears "for the first time in a handwritten musical score, composed by Batholomeu Jozé Geraldes datesd circa 1800" (from a booklet which was partof the 2 CD set Portuguese Guitar Memories distributed by Caixa Geral de Depósitos, Portugal in the year 2000. Senhor Cabral notes that the use of the term cítara appears much earlier. Consequently, although this instrument looks like a Portuguese guitarra it predates that nomenclature and is justifiably referred to as a cítara (which glosses to cittern in English).

At this time I do not have information on how or who dated this instrument.

If the date of 1764 is correct, then this instrument was made 32 years before Antonio da Silva Leite's Estudo da Guitarra (1796) which was a Portuguese language method for the English Guitarra published in Oporto (Porto), Portugal.

Exactly how this instrument is related to the English guittar is unclear. Was it influenced directly by makers of the English guittar or was it the developed directly from earlier Portuguese cítaras? Or, did this type of instrument and its relatives heavily influence the design of the English guittar? Given that the trade and cultural ties between Portugal and Britain are interactive reationships I would expect that a theory which posited a dialectical relationship between the Portuguese guitarra and English guittar would best explain the changes through time of these instruments.

It would be interesting to see the internal braces of this instrument and to compare it with English Guittars and Portuguese guitarras. More research needs to be done on the connection between these related instruments.

At a later time, I will present the arguments in the Portuguese literature about this controversial instrument. There is a summary of some of the arguments (pp. 190-191) in Instrumentos Musicais Poulares Portugueses, published by Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian/Museu Nacional de Etnologia, Lisboa, Portugal (2000) by Ernesto Veiga de Oliveira. For the moment I am simply presenting the Reis instrument for the perusal of interested parties.

I took these photos quickly at the museum in 2004; I intended them for my own records--I wish I had been able to spent more time to get the glare out of the first photo.

Here is my e-mail: ron@fernandezmusic.com

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