Paris c. 1779–c. 1790
Although as late as 1782 John Betts was required to seek permission from the City of London authorities to employ two non-freemen, the livery companies were gradually losing influence, while in France the centuries-old structure of labour that may have contributed to Vincenzo’s departure was dramatically overturned. In February 1776 the Controller of General Finances in France, Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, issued his Six Edicts, intended as part of an ambitious programme of social reform and deregulation of working practices that included the abolition of the outdated guild system. This brought about a wave of disorder, Turgot was dismissed by Louis XVI and the guilds were re-established in August the same year. However, this was not just a simple reversion of policy: although in Paris this reorganisation proceeded slowly, the power of the guilds was significantly reduced, resulting in far greater accessibility to trades, and with many becoming open to women and outsiders for the first time. Several, including the Company of Musical Instrument Makers, were forced to amalgamate with other guilds.
The Classe des nouveaux Maîtres listing from 1779, showing Vincenzo’s registration as a luthier in Paris
Meanwhile in London the Catholic Relief Act of 1778 brought about a wave of anti-Catholic sentiment that resulted in harassment and attacks on their properties, culminating in the Gordon Riots of 1780. Perhaps this, combined with the relaxation of the guild system in France, was the stimulus for Vincenzo to return to Paris, for on 5 October 1779, along with François Pique, he was received as a Maître tabletier et luthier in the Classe des nouveaux Maîtres of the Communauté des Maître et Marchands Tabletiers, Luthiers, Éventaillists de la ville, Vinz & banlieue de Paris, his address given as rue de l’Arbre-Sec.
Vincenzo’s son Francesco may have continued his involvement with the workshop in Paris, but he also began a career as a musician, the first indication of this being his appointment in 1780 as a flautist at the Grand-Danseurs du Roi, the hugely successful theatre run by Jean-Baptiste Nicolet on the boulevard du Temple. This is also the year that Vincenzo’s violins bearing the coat of arms of Palermo on the label start to appear, perhaps by now made with the assistance of the 12-year-old Joseph. When Vincenzo had first visited Paris around 1770 the ‘vieux Paris’ style of making influenced by Amati and Stainer and epitomised by makers such as Louis Guersan and Jean-Baptiste Salomon still prevailed, but by 1779 the Stradivari model was in the ascendancy and becoming apparent in the work of several makers, including those arriving in Paris from further afield, such as François Fent, Léopold Renaudin, François Pique – and Vincenzo Panormo himself.
Once in Paris Vincenzo appears to have continued his involvement with woodwind instruments, although whether producing them himself or acting as an agent for the family in Naples is unclear. In March 1781 Longman & Broderip in London announced in an advert that they had imported from Paris ‘a fine toned Serpent and Hautboy by Mons Prudent and Mons Panormo’. Prudent Thieriot was apprenticed to the leading French woodwind producer Charles Bizey and became a renowned flute and clarinet maker. The tone of the advertisement implies that customers would be familiar with both brands.
Seven months later 18-year-old Francesco was promoting the Panormo name 400 miles away in Milan. According to di Stefano, in October 1781 Francesco advertised in the Giornale Enciclopedico di Milano that ‘he makes oboes, flutes, clarinets and other similar instruments in a definitely new, skilful, way for a reasonable price…’ Francesco may have travelled alone to Milan but the Parisian researcher Catherine Marlat has discovered that in 1782 Vincenzo was registered by his guild as absent, suggesting that he may have accompanied Francesco. Whether this was a failed attempt to establish themselves in Milan or simply a business trip to promote their instruments, the visit appears to have been a brief one as Vincenzo is once again listed, without an address, in the Parisian Almanach Musical of 1783.
In March 1781 Longman & Broderip in London announced in an advert that they had imported from Paris ‘a fine toned Serpent and Hautboy by Mons Prudent and Mons Panormo’
On his return Vincenzo may have settled in the rue de Chartres, a short distance west of his former address in the rue de l’Arbre-Sec and close to several established workshops (see map). He is recorded there in the Almanach of 1789 and the following year is registered in the adjacent rue de Rohan. Both these streets had been created in 1780 (making the many labels quoting these streets before this date quite spurious), meeting at their southern end in the Place du Carousel, where the guillotine was placed in August 1792. Perhaps significantly in terms of Vincenzo’s choice of address, they were located on the site of the former Quinze Vingts lieu privilégié to which Nicolas Léonard Tourte had moved his workshop after the death of his father, Nicolas Pierre, in 1764.
Vincenzo’s youngest son, Louis, was born in Paris in 1784 or 85 and was baptised with the name of the French king, Louis XVI. Curiously, two of his elder brothers also seem to have been named after the ruling monarch: Francesco appears to have been born in Rome, when Frances I was Holy Roman Emperor, while George was almost certainly born in the reign of George III in the parish of St Martin in the Fields in 1776 (he claimed to have been born in ‘foreign parts’ in the 1841 London census but amended this to ‘native of St Martin’s’ ten years later). Perhaps this was a conscious attempt at integration by Vincenzo?
Francesco, now known as François (he apparently altered his name to fit in with his location), continued his musical career outside the family workshop, publishing six duets for flutes by 1786, but within a few years the family were once again uprooted. Francesco maintained in a later interview  that his father was doing well in Paris but was forced to flee the city after the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789.