A young John D’Angelico likely built this guitar before earning fame as an archtop builder

This stunning 12-string Galiano could be singled out for its craftsmanship and design alone, but the instrument’s importance is elevated by a direct connection to a towering  20th-century guitar maker and the community of immigrants that trained him.

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The guitar is labeled A. Galiano, a brand name shared by several luthiers working in New York’s Little Italy neighborhood in the early 1900s, including Antonio Cerrito and Raphael Ciani. Galianos are often highly ornamented and relatively large-bodied, the latter a selling point for guitarists like Nick Lucas and Eddie Lang, who relied on 6-string Galianos early in their professional careers as they needed volume.

Eddie Lang, third from left, and a 1925 shot of Nick Lucas.

Eddie Lang, third from left, and a 1925 shot of Nick Lucas.

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It’s believed that this 12-string was made in Ciani’s workshop at 57 Kenmare Street, where a young John D’Angelico (1905–1964) worked with his great-uncle Raphael Ciani, who had immigrated to the U.S. in 1903. D’Angelico, an apprentice since age nine, likely built the guitar around the time he took over the workshop after Ciani’s death, in 1923.

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This Galiano—which is part of the extraordinary collection of the National Music Museum, in Vermillion, South Dakota—abounds with gorgeous details. Its natural-finished spruce top and curly maple back and sides serve as a beautiful canvas for an elaborate rosette and purfling, abalone-inlaid celluloid tortoiseshell pickguard, and mustache bridge. The headstock’s broken-scroll pediment is a design that was popular with Neapolitan luthiers and one that D’Angelico carried over to the grand Excel archtops he developed after opening his own shop in 1932.

—Greg Olwell

Thanks to NMM curator Arian Sheets, Todd Cambio of Fraulini Guitars, and Retrofret for background.

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