Paris, via Marseille c. 1770–1772

If indeed Vincenzo was in Rome around 1763, he appears to have returned to Naples by the birth of Joseph around 1768. Soon thereafter Vincenzo was on the move again, and we next find evidence of him in France. A boxwood oboe branded ‘Vinc. Panorm: a Marseille’[12] makes an interesting pairing with a violin recorded in the Hill Archives of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, labelled ‘Vincenzo Panormo/fece Marsiglia anno 17**’ and bearing the same brand as the oboe on the upper back (the violin itself has since disappeared). Perhaps this suggests the direction travelled to Paris, Vincenzo’s next destination, was the well-established sea route from Naples, via Livorno and Genoa, to Marseille. Before the advent of railways this journey would have been much easier by sea than over land using the few passable roads.

Vincenzo probably arrived in Paris around 1770 (the date is surmised from Edward Ferdinand’s statement that the family moved from Paris to London in 1772).[13] Although some work may have been available, it might not have been easy to find. Foreigners, and sometimes even those born outside the city, were ineligible to join any of the Parisian guilds, which sought to monopolise the production of all goods. Vincenzo would have been forced to work in one of the lieux privilégiés (places of privilege) to be found in the suburbs of most major cities and nominally outside the jurisdiction of the guilds. The best known of these lieux privilégiés in Paris was the Faubourg St Antoine, home to hundreds of carpenters and cabinet makers and where Nicolas Pierre Tourte began his career as a carpenter before declaring himself a luthier in 1742. The power of the guilds may also go some way to explain the distinctive type of spruce used in Paris during this period, including on some of Vincenzo’s instruments.[14]

Nevertheless, working in these areas was not without its difficulties as the chambrellans, or false workers, were considered by many guilds to undermine their monopoly and were often subject to searches by the authorities. One guild repeatedly confiscated the materials of the piano maker Sébastien Erard because he was perceived as a threat to its members who were harpsichord makers.

  • Map of Paris in 1787 showing the Faubourg St Antoine, the best known of the lieux privilégiés areas in which foreign craftsmen such as Panormo were forced to work