The Paris Vihuela

IMG00096_1The Paris Vihuela (a.k.a. The Guadalupe Vihuela) pictured here is a replica of a historical instrument in a museum in Paris that is the predecessor of the Modern guitar. The original dates back to c. 1500 AD. This replica was made in London in 1974 by Raphael (Maish) Weisman, the founder of Harps of Lorien, after examining the original, measuring and photographing it and creating a full scale drawing of it so that the replica could be made. This replica took a year to make and the research and measurements of the original were documented in the Galpin Society Journal, Volume XXXV, March 1982, which includes details of the methods of construction of the replica. The article also explains the origin of the instrument as a final piece for a luthier to become a master member of the Instrument Maker’s Guild in Spain. The instrument is currently in a private collection. It is available for sale to a museum or collector along with rotating display stand, original drawings, photographs of the original at the time of my examination of it in 1974 and the Galpin Society Journal in which the article appeared. The article is reproduced on a separate page. The link above will open the page on this site.

This instrument and display package is for sale for $44,000. Please contact me for details. Be aware that this instrument is too large to play the Vihuela repertoire and is a display object for a collector or museum. The original was once modified with a shorter string length (There are signs that there was a bridge closer to the neck to allow someone to play it like a guitar)

This extract from the article in the Galpin Society Journal indicates the most likely origin of the original: The link below will take you there. Click on the back arrow to return to this page:

Here is an extract from the Wikipedia article describing the history of the Vihuela. The link to the complete entry is listed below, just before the photographs.:

“The vihuela, as it was known in Spain, was called the viola da mano in Italy and Portugal.[1] The two names are functionally synonymous and interchangeable. In its most developed form, the vihuela was a guitar-like instrument with six double-strings (paired courses) made of gut. Vihuelas were tuned identically like its contemporary Renaissance lute4ths and mid-3rd (44344, almost like a modern guitar tunings, with the exception of the third string, which was tuned a semitone lower).

Plucked vihuela, being essentially flat-backed lutes, evolved in the mid-15th century, in the Kingdom of Aragón (located in north-eastern Iberia (Spain), filling the gap that elsewhere in Europe was taken up by the lute; for the Spanish and Portuguese the lute was too close to the oud. In Spain Portugal and Italy the vihuela was in common use by the late 15th through to the late 16th centuries. In the second half of the 15th century some vihuela players began using a bow, leading to the development of the viol.

There were several different types of vihuela (or different playing methods at least):

  • Vihuela de mano — 6 or 5 courses played with the fingers
  • Vihuela de penola — played with a plectrum
  • Vihuela de arco — played with a bow (ancestor of the viola da gamba)

Tunings for 6 course vihuela de mano (44344):

  • G C F A D G
  • C F B D G C

The vihuela faded away, along with the complex polyphonic music that was its repertoire, in the late 16th century, along with the other primary instrument of the Spanish and Portugal Renaissance, the cross-strung harp. The vihuela’s descendants that are still played are the violas campaniças of Portugal. Much of the vihuela’s place, role, and function was taken up by the subsequent Baroque guitar (also sometimes referred to as vihuela or bigüela). Today, the vihuela is in use primarily for the performance of early music, using modern replicas of historical instruments. Today, instruments like the tiple are descendants of vihuelas brought to America in the 16th century.”

IMG00101_1Here are the instrument’s dimensions  ( in cm.):

String Length – 79.8 with marks of a later bridge (presumably to allow it to be played like a guitar) creating a shorter string length of 95.7

Total Length  112.3

Body length – 58.8

Width at lower bout – 31.9,  at waist – 27, at upper bout -29.8

Body depth (Sides including back and front) tapers from 6.4 at neck/body joint to 7.6 at endblock.

More detailed dimensions are available in the Galpin Society publication.


Here is the link to the Galpin Society Article:
There is a comprehensive article with much information about Vihuelas on Wikipedia. Here is a link to the  Wikipedia article:


In his excellent article, Prof. Egberto Bermudez of the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogota, compares the Paris Vihuela with the one in Quito and references my article along with much of the research about this subject. The link to his article, which includes photographs of both original instruments, is:


Vihuela plan

Plan of Vihuela showing external decoration and details. Bases on examination of original



Vihuela Drawing Internal details based on observations

Vihuela Drawing Internal details based on observations




Photos of the original Vihuela in the Musee Jacquemart Andre in Paris from the Guitar Review #30

Anthony Rooley with Paris Vihuela

Anthony Rooley, Director and founder of The Consort of Musicke and the London Early Music Centre playing the unfinished replica of the Paris Vihuela at a special concert

Vihuela from The Early Guitar

Vihuela replica beside the original from “The Early Guitar” by James Tyler


The central Rose of the Vihuela made of parchment

The following are views of details from the replica made in 1974 in London. The inlays on the back, neck and the (legal) ivory and ebony and other wood marquetry are all made up of many individual pieces as well as the sections of the fingerboard. The woods used for back, sides and neck are Brazilian Rosewood and London Plane (similar to Sycamore in USA). The front is Spruce. Strings are made of gut and consist of 6 courses (pairs of strings). Spacing is very tight and lowest strings very thick.


Working on the Vihuela in a museum  replica 18th Century workshop.

In process, demonstration at the Horniman Museum, London



The Neck. Pieces go all the way through

Some photos of the original, courtesy Musee’ Jacquemart André:



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  1. Pingback: Vihuela (維韋拉) 與巴羅克時期的結他 - K-D Studio

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