Castelluccia Grande Bouche Gypsy Jazz Guitar , c. 1955

Castelluccia  Grande Bouche Gypsy Jazz Guitar ,  c. 1955
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Item # 10628
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Castelluccia Grande Bouche Model Gypsy Jazz Guitar, c. 1955, made in Paris, France, natural finish, laminated mahogany body, spruce top; French walnut neck with ebonized fingerboard, black hard shell case.

This is a well-played but great sounding vintage French Selmer-style guitar by well-regarded Paris luthier Jean-Baptiste Castelluccia, founder of a guitar making dynasty that is still going strong. This guitar is not labeled but has known Castelluccia construction traits, including the original monogrammed tailpiece which is unfortunately broken but still in the case pocket. In most respects this is a fairly close copy of the earlier Selmer/Maccaferri "Grande Bouche" design.

The finish is very thin varnish, with typical micro-checking and a decent amount of wear. The hardware is unplated brass, the bindings are and soundhole inlay are made up of multiple layers of wood. There is some neat marquetry work inside the side binding edge.

The original small-gear brass tuners have amber plastic "lollypop' buttons. The fingerboard is only fretted to the 23rd fret, leaving some unused space over the soundhole. Based on the cosmetic and structural features this guitar likely dates to the mid 1950s, although these handmade Parisian guitars are notoriously difficult to date exactly as the construction traits vary randomly but styles can stay the same for decades.

Castelluccia was a more refined craftsman than many of his Parisian contemporaries in the earlier years of Selmer-inspired guitar building. This is a well made instrument with a higher level of workmanship and finish than many similar period instruments, which can be quite "rough and ready' by some standards. This is a lovely guitar to play with the authentic Gypsy flair, a beautiful version of the iconic "Django"-style instrument that has grown ever more popular over the decades.
 
Overall length is 40 in. (101.6 cm.), 15 1/2 in. (39.4 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 4 in. (10.2 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 26 in. (660 mm.). Width of nut is 1 13/16 in. (46 mm.).

As is typical with older Selmer-style guitars this one shows a lot of play wear, but remains structurally sound and an excellent player. The finish is very thin, and so tends to wear through quickly. The top has a decent amount of pickwear, most notably below the strings and sound hole but also visible above the fingerboard. The rest of the instrument shows typical varnish micro-checking with scuffs, dings and scratches but no larger areas worn away.

The instrument does not show any crack repairs, which is a nice situation on an older heavily used Parisian guitar. The fingerboard appears to have possibly been replaced long ago, other than that the instrument remains largely original. The lower tip of the bridge ends is chipped off. The original tailpiece carrying Castellucia's monogram is in the case pocket but broken at the thinnest point; a modern Selmer style replica has been installed in its place.

These older genuine Parisian-made Selmer-style guitars are very hard to find in good playing condition, especially in the US where they were never imported. In Europe most were literally played into the ground by the itinerant Gypsy or cafe musicians who were the original intended users. This is a nicely authentic and excellent playing guitar with a powerful and focused sound, especially fine for small group use, as originally intended. Overall Very Good + Condition.