Please note lots marked with a square will be moved to Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services (CFASS in Red Hook, Brooklyn) on the last day of the sale. Lots are not available for collection at Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services until after the third business day following the sale. All lots will be stored free of charge for 30 days from the auction date at Christie’s Rockefeller Center or Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services (CFASS in Red Hook, Brooklyn). Operation hours for collection from either location are from 9.30 am to 5.00 pm, Monday-Friday. After 30 days from the auction date property may be moved at Christie’s discretion. Please contact Post-Sale Services to confirm the location of your property prior to collection. Lots may not be collected during the day of their move to Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services (CFASS in Red Hook, Brooklyn). Please consult the Lot Collection Notice for collection information.
Lots made of or including (regardless of the
percentage) endangered and other protected
species of wildlife are marked with the symbol ~
in the catalogue. This material includes, among
other things, ivory, tortoiseshell, crocodile skin,
rhinoceros horn, whalebone certain species of
coral, and Brazilian rosewood. You should check
the relevant customs laws and regulations before
bidding on any lot containing wildlife material if
you plan to import the lot into another country.
Several countries refuse to allow you to import
property containing these materials, and some
other countries require a licence from the relevant
regulatory agencies in the countries of exportation
as well as importation. In some cases, the lot can
only be shipped with an independent scientific
confirmation of species and/or age, and you will
need to obtain these at your own cost.
Please note this lot incorporates material from endangered and/or protected species of wildlife which could result in export restrictions. Please see Paragraph H2(b) of the Conditions of Sale for further information.
Orville Gibson, who in 1894 worked as a part-time shoe salesman and restaurant clerk in Kalamazoo, Michigan, possessed a dual passion for music and woodworking. Although Gibson lacked any formal training as a luthier, it was his creative thinking, at the nexus of these two passions, which convinced him that he had the means to greatly improve guitar construction.
For over two hundred years, traditional guitar construction was based on a method of fabricating the instrument’s sound box, commonly referred to as the body, from thin plates of wood for the top and back. These would be braced internally so as to withstand the pressures exerted by the tension of the strings. Instead of following this formula, Orville looked to the violin for inspiration. The tops and backs of violins are carved from thick stocks of wood, resulting in an arched form. This arch is self-sustaining and, like those found in architecture, able to withstand both downward and inward pressures. Applying this thinking to guitar and mandolin construction, Gibson created what we now know as the arch-top guitar and carved topped mandolin. These instruments were louder and more durable than comparable works of the time and were immediately successful with musicians. As such, the demand for Gibson’s instruments quickly exceeded his ability to produce them. Without the capital to expand, Gibson sold his name and operation to a group of Kalamazoo businessmen and with this, The Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Company was born.
Innovations in guitar design did not end with Orville Gibson’s departure in 1903 from the company he founded. When we examine the history of Gibson as a company, we find they were relentless in pursuing new ideas. In 1921, Thaddeus McHugh, a woodworker at the Kalamazoo factory, invented and put into production both the adjustable truss rod and adjustable bridge. These advances made it possible to set and maintain the string height to perfectly fit the player’s needs. A year later in 1922, the musician and Gibson acoustical engineer Lloyd Loar expanded on the original ideas of Orville Gibson by adding the violin-style “f” holes on the tops of guitars and mandolins. The first guitar of this design, named the L-5, would prove itself a superior rhythm instrument when incorporated into the jazz bands of the 1920s.
The Jazz era produced an insatiable desire for guitars that could produce the loudest volume, due to the growing size of both the performance venues and ensembles that played in them. The pinnacle of arch-top design was reached in 1924 with Gibson’s introduction of the Super 400. Measuring a full 18 inches in width, it was the largest, loudest and most expensive guitar Gibson had yet produced. Building on the momentum of these innovations, two years later Gibson achieved the ultimate solution in maximizing the volume a guitar could produce.
In 1936 Gibson introduced the “Electric Spanish” guitar. The ES-150 was featured in the new 1937 catalogue and cost $150, which included a matching amplifier. This guitar was essentially a standard Gibson arch-top fitted with a single magnetic bar pickup. When the young jazz guitar virtuoso Charlie Christian first “plugged in” with Benny Goodman’s orchestra, this marked the moment when the guitar moved from the traditional rhythm section to solo and lead instrument. It would be twenty years before the significance of this moment could fulfill its true potential, which burst forth in the form of the rock and roll guitar.
The post-war years would see an explosion of innovation by Gibson, with much of it under the guidance of CEO Ted McCarty. Gibson would refine its earlier guitar amplification methods with the development of the P-90 signal coil pickup in 1946. Wound around Alnico magnets on a wider and shorter bobbin, the P-90 produced a warmer “jazzier” sound than other single-coil pickups. With six adjustable poles positioned under each string, the tone and output could now be adjusted and balanced for each separate guitar string.
In 1952 McCarty drove the development of Gibson’s first solid-body electric guitar, the soon to be iconic Les Paul Model. A year later McCarty designed the stud mounted combination bridge/tailpiece. Dispensing with a trapeze style tailpiece and mounting the bridge directly into the guitar would increase the tonal sustain of a solid-body guitar. By 1954 McCarty had perfected his idea for a bridge that allowed the intonation for each string to be adjusted separately. Called the Tune-O-Matic it was designed to be mountable on any type of guitar whether an archtop or a solid-body. By incorporating the ideas of Gibson’s Thaddeus McHugh it allowed the string height to be adjustable and, when coupled with a fixed stud-tailpiece, the results were phenomenal. This innovative bridge design was quickly incorporated on all upper-priced Gibson guitars and has become the universal standard for all bridges on electric guitars to this day.