English Double Bass by Joseph Panormo, London circa 1800
This is for sure a great quality instrument in exceptional and “uncut” condition. The visually spectacular wide, dark-grained, part-quarter, part-slab wood-type of the front and the plain slab-cut sycamore of the back, ribs and scroll are remarkably similar to the wood used on the Ex Martin Vincenzo Panormo double bass of circa 1802 as featured in The English Double Bass book as well as other examples. The use of wings on both the lower front and lower back bouts that are made from the same timber source as the rest of the plates are also in common with the 1802 Ex-Martin Panormo.
Another particularly interesting feature on the table of the Ex-Martin 1802 Panormo is the large knot on the bass-side table-flank join line and a rather obvious insert of wood immediately above it that indicates that the maker replaced a second knot. Similarly, it is significant that our example also has a pair of knots on this same bass-side flank-joint, whilst on the lower treble-side front there are two pairs of knots on either side of the join line that have been butted right up against each other. In the Strad October 1996 article by Thomas Martin and Martin Lawrence regarding Vincenzo Panormo entitled “Cremona in London” the 1802 instrument is comprehensively featured and the authors provide a compelling explanation for what many luthiers would call an audacious if not reckless selection of timber as follows; It is indicative of Panormo's great understanding of how instruments function that he was able to use uncompromising wood to produce a consistent quality of sound.
On the back of our instrument at the position of the angle break it looks very much as though there has been a repair right along the line of the fold, however we see a near identical repair on the back of the Ex-Martin 1802 Panormo for which Martin & Lawrence also provide an explanation in their 1996 Strad article as follows; The arch becomes almost flat as it approaches the shoulder crease, which in early examples was positioned quite high on the back. Later, Panormo moved the crease lower down to make the instrument easier to play. Several of the earlier instruments have subsequently been modified to achieve the same result (as in the (1802) instrument pictured.)
Of particular mention is the slab-cut sycamore back of this instrument. Although it does seem particularly plain to the eye on the outside, on the inside one can see wide elliptical grain lines contouring around the back and large swirls that are an absolute feast for the eye. In addition, a faint wide flame marking is also visible in places. On the ribs the grain is again wide and can be seen running longitudinally.
There are several other features in the bold model and workmanship of our instrument that do look very similar to the early work of Vincenzo, however the more “square” upper shoulders, the much slimmer rib depth, the slightly shorter stubbier corners, the more Amatise influenced F-holes and arching and the absolutely gorgeous scroll with its slightly smaller proportions and precise carving is typical of the work of Joseph. Of course there is the possible that this is an example of both father and son working together which we know that they did for quite some time prior to Joseph setting up his own shop around 1800. The most stupendous of “Baker” machines adorn the pegbox and the treble-side half-plate is impressed with the name Walker who was a London based maker and restorer circa 1880.
It is believed that Joseph made only around ten double basses.
The instrument has recently undergone a full-rebuild that has put it into A1 structural condition. It possesses a really responsive, tonally-pure and well-balanced sound that carries well.
For those seeking an investment opportunity, this quality of instrument is exceedingly hard to come across and as such is certain to provide a healthy return over time.
LOB (length of back) - 113.4cm
Width across upper bouts - 54.7cm
Width across middle bouts - 36.0cm
Width across lower bouts - 68.8cm
Depth of lower ribs inc both plates - 21.0cm
Body Stop - 64.9cm
String length - 109.0cm
Reference number #2884