The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will host “Early American Guitars: The Instruments of C.F. Martin” through Dec. 7. The exhibition, which started in January, will be held at the Andre Mertens Galleries for Musical Instruments, Gallery 684, at the museum.
The exhibition features 35 rare guitars that illustrate the early history of the instrument in America, drawn from the museum’s holdings as well as from the Martin Guitar Museum in Nazareth, Pa., and several private collections. It will trace the birth of the American guitar by shedding light on the contributions of Christian Frederick Martin, a German immigrant who invented a uniquely American form of the guitar in the first half of the 19th century.
This will be the largest collection of instruments by this famed guitar maker ever to be displayed publicly, including the earliest known guitar signed by Martin, the earliest established guitar with his famed X-braced construction and several extraordinary decorated examples of his work. Also on view will be a 1939 guitar made by Martin Guitar that was played by Eric Clapton on MTV’s “Unplugged” series in 1992, representing the long trajectory of guitar building by the company, according to the museum.
Born in 1796 to a cabinetmaker in Markneukirchen, Saxony, Martin learned to build guitars in the style of Johann Georg Stauffer in Vienna. Because of the restrictive guilds in his birth country, Martin left it in 1833 and settled first in New York City, then moved to Nazareth.
The Met also has an exhibit exploring the evolution of the modern dressing table.
Both exhibitions are featured on the museum’s website at www.metmuseum.org.
This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue.