The Castelluccia legacy

Castelluccia is a big name when it comes down to the vintage gypsy guitars. Castelluccia is actually a family of luthiers who have passed their knowledge from father to son over multiple generations. When talking about vintage gypsy guitars the name is mostly referring to Jean-Baptiste Castelluccia who’s been making guitars professionally in Paris since the 1940’s. A lot of the instruments that have been made by his hands have been able to withstand the ravages of time, not only because of their good construction but also because of their outstanding acoustic quality and beautiful appearances. This is what gave Castellucia the status as a excellent luthier. Nowadays, these instruments still represent quality and are loved among gypsy guitarists and collectors.

In the early 1900s’ the Castelluccia lutherie story began with Francesco Castelluccia, whom was focussed on the making of violins. While still living in Italy he passed his knowledge, expertise and the profession on to his son Jean-Baptiste. Apparently Jean-Baptiste made his very first guitar when he was 13 and gave it to friend. Around 1946 Jean-Baptiste moved to Paris while swing music was at it’s peek. He lived close to “la zone”, a (in)famous gypsy area, which was the epicenter of the gypsy scene. There he was situated together with a small group of other -now famous- Italian luthiers who where specialized in making steel stringed gypsy guitars. At some point in Paris he met the great Django Reinhardt and it’s been said that this led him to make gypsy jazz guitars.

Jean-Baptiste Castelluccia
Jacques Castelluccia working in the workshop ~1970

Jean-Baptiste’s son; Jacques joined his father’s practice in 1954 and so he is now continuing the name of the Castelluccia legacy. His focus lies rather on classical guitars, but he also still produces gypsy guitars in quite a great variety of models and with great care. Jean-Baptiste passed away in 1964 but luckily he passed his knowledge and expertise on to his son who’s now running the Castelluccia atelier in Paris.

Typical Castelluccia features

There have been a lot of different models produced, but one that stands out a lot is the eye-catching D-hole model. It has a typical soundhole shape, slightly different from the Selmer D-hole. They have 14 frets to the body and a nicely curved back. The interesting thing about these guitars is that they come in a great variety. Different types of woods and bindings indicate whether it was a normal or deluxe model.
Castelluccia has also developed their own style tailpieces. There are some variations in the design but you can easily pick them out because of the CJ Signature.

Castelluccia D-hole (deluxe model)
A typical Castelluccia tailpiece with the C & J initials (source:djangobooks.com)