London after 1813
Vincenzo was still living in Soho at the time of his death aged 79. He was buried in St Anne’s Churchyard on 19 March 1813 but was described as a resident of St Giles. Francesco (now known as Francis) had moved close to the Middlesex Hospital, north of Oxford Street. He moved to Dublin between 1818 and 1821 and for a further five years from 1823. It was there that one of his sons, Constantine, became a noted sculptor before Francesco returned to London for the last time in 1827 to live at 42 Prince’s Street, Soho, where he continued to advertise his compositions, as well as offering piano and singing lessons.
Joseph was the least settled of the brothers, frequently moving to different addresses around Soho. He was living in King Street when Vincenzo died and advertised from no. 39, joined by his 11-year-old son Edward Ferdinand as ‘Jos Panormo & Son’ from 1823. He also went into partnership, probably during the 1820s, with Antonio Bruno, subsequently known as Anthony Brown, making guitars at 52 King Street; their joint label refers to them as ‘makers to the celebrated Mr Sor’, the famous virtuoso who quit London in 1823. The trade directory listing as ‘Panormo & son’ continued at 4 Compton Street from 1830 to 1836, although Edward Ferdinand is also listed independently at this address from 1832. Bruno had also established himself independently in Dean Street by 1836.
Joseph died in the St Anne’s Workhouse in 1837, his occupation given as ‘pauper’. In 1898 Richard Harrison, a close friend of the Panormos, described him as having made guitars for Louis and wrote that he ‘would invariably make instruments for the trade’. He also described Joseph as eccentric and ‘would work until he had acquired some thirty pounds, and then he would amuse himself with painting.’
Vincenzo’s younger sons George and Louis remained where they were living when Vincenzo died in 1813 and seem to have enjoyed a close relationship. Louis remarried in the church of St Giles in 1813, giving his address as 43 Monmouth Street and was witness to George’s second marriage in the same church the following year, George’s address being 13 Monmouth Street. Louis, who claimed to have taken British citizenship, turned to manufacturing the newly fashionable guitar. The earliest known label of ‘Panormo Fecit/London 1816’ inserted in an early guitar by Louis is identical to that used by George around this time with the addition of the letter ‘G’ written in front of the printed ‘Panormo’.
Louis ran a shop at 26 High Street, Bloomsbury from 1817. This street became known as High Street, St Giles in 1830 and in 1847 he moved to 31 High Street, St Giles, from where he advertised bows and violin family instruments, including those made by other members of his family. According to Harrison, Louis employed his brothers Joseph and George and their sons, Edward Ferdinand and George Lewis, as well as his own son Charles (although this is so far the only source to suggest that Charles Panormo worked for his father) and two apprentices, Thomas Ambry and George Middlewood. Louis also sold bows traditionally believed to have been made by members of the Tubbs family, but recent research by James Westbrook has revealed that George Middlewood is noted in the 1841 census as a ‘violin bow-maker’. Westbrook also suggests that Ambry is actually the guitar maker William Hanbury, whose instruments strongly resemble those by Louis.
Louis was successful enough to have his portrait painted. In what appears to be preparation for retirement, he advertised the sale of a number of instruments in The Times in 1853 before emigrating to New Zealand in 1859, where he died three years later.
George was working in Liverpool around the time of Joseph’s death but he was back in London by the 1841 census (living at 56 New Compton Street with his wife and three children as well as two other families, suggesting impoverished circumstances) and died in 1852 at 14 Dudley Street. His son, George Lewis, who at times also referred to himself as a violin maker, succeeded to his uncle Louis’s guitar making business around 1855 and ran it until his death in 1877.
After his father’s death Edward Ferdinand led a nomadic life as a maker and player. He often remained at an address for only a year, a sure sign of financial difficulty. According to Harrison, he returned to Brighton in 1888, where he entered the workhouse. A public subscription was raised to support him and his wife but in 1891 he became suddenly ill and Harrison was called upon. He recalled how ‘in a back room, or garret, on a straw mattress, beneath a coverlet (that a table cloth), lay the remains of old Panormo, the last link of the great Italian stringed instrument makers.’
Mystery still surrounds the life of Vincenzo Panormo. He travelled frequently in search of work and used materials according to his location and circumstances; he would have rented accommodation and was regularly employed by dealers – all of which makes it hard to trace his movements. However, the quality of his work is clear. He became a hugely important figure and perhaps it is no coincidence that Vincenzo’s first appearance in London corresponded with the demise of the Stainer model, while his second period in the city saw the acceptance of the Stradivari pattern that he had developed in Paris. His sons were also influential: Joseph became one of the first makers to copy Guarneri ‘del Gesù’ and the family was heavily involved with the development of the guitar in Britain. There is surely more to be discovered about the Panormos, but for now there remains much to admire. ■
With thanks to Tim Baker, Charles Beare, Pierre Caradot, Anne Houssay, Michael Jameson, Philip J. Kass, Catherine Marlat, Duane Rosengard, Giovanni Paolo di Stefano and Graham Wells.