Top: German Spruce
Ribs and Back: Cypress
Upper bout 235 mm
Waist 194 mm
Lower bout 310 mm
Body length 450 mm
Rib depth (top) 60 mm
Rib depth (waist) 65 mm
Rib depth (bottom) 68 mm
Sound hole 80 mm
String scale 635 mm
Weight 0.90 kg
Soundboard aggregate 1064 cm2
Text of Label
José López Beltrán / Unico Discipulo / de / Don Antonio Torres / Teatro Apolo / Almería 18 handwritten
The words El Tesorero appear on a piece of parchment used as lining-- but appear to be artifacts of the paper used.
The one attested connection to Antonio de Torres (1817-1892) is that he was asked in 1894 by Juan de Torres Pujazón, a first cousin of Torres to prepare a fitted case in which to ship a guitar known as "La Leona," that Torres made in 1856 and had kept, to Francisco Mingot in Argentina, who had purchased it through intermediaries from Ana Torres, the maker's unmarried daughter. Torres Pujazón writes, "I have written my relative Anita, saying that I have the money in my hands, 2,500 reales and that she must bring the guitar tomorrow without fail and I can give her the said sum. I think she will come and we will not fail. As soon as I have the instrument in my hands I will try straight away to get our good friend José López to make a fitted case" (Romanillos and Winspear 1995:218).
Circumstances would seem to indicate that José López Beltrán may have worked with Torres in the last few years of his life. We know that Torres returned to building guitars in 1875, beginning his "secunda epoca," which lasted until his death in November of 1892.
From 1875 to 1882, he built on average six guitars a year. During this period, the China shop provided part of his income and consumed some of his time. In 1883, his wife, Josefa Martín, fell ill and died of cancer, leaving the sixty-six year old Torres, a widower with two young daughters--Matilde (b. 1872-73) and Ana (b.1876)--to support. The China shop ceased to exist, and Torres turned his energies to building full time. His output from 1883 to his death in 1892 averaged 12 guitars a year. Yet, it is also recorded that by 1887, Torres' hands shook so badly that he had difficulty signing his name, and needed help to do assembly work. During this period one of the persons who helped him was Juan Martinez Sirvent, a young parish priest who became his trusted friend, helped Torres to do assembly work, "particularly with gluing the back and ribs and the soundboards of his instruments; tasks he found difficult to carry out by himself because of his shaking hands" (Romanillos and Winspear 1995:42).
Reading between the lines, here's where I suspect Jose Lopez Beltran entered the picture. I suspect that Martinez Sirvent's duties as a parish priest would have meant that he was often unable to help Torres do his work. Torres probably needed more help that this arrangement provided, and he took on José López Beltrán as an assistant. By this time, he probably was less worried about training a competitor than about having steady help. He had orders to fill. He also knew that that the great secret of his sound was not something that anyone could steal from him, as he confessed to Martinez Sirvent, "it is impossible for me to leave the secret behind for posterity; this will go to the tomb with me for it is the result of the feel of the tips of the thumb and forefinger communicating to my intellect whether the soundboard is properly worked out to correspond to with the guitar maker's concept and the sound required of the instrument" (Romanillos and Winspear 1995:17). In fact, as Romanillos documents, the methods of construction Torres employed were not only in wide use in Almería, but he shared knowledge of how to do certain operations with other makers, e.g. Torres taught Miguel Moya Rendono (1847-1915) how to calculate fret spacing using a compass and the "rule of 18" (Romanillos 1995:144). So why Torres so secretive? While he may not have wanted to train competitors, certainly by the end of his life, this was not a worry. The answer I think is that making a show of being secretive was good for business. Making a show of secrecy suggested that he had some special knowledge and techniques that other makers did not possess. If as Torres confesses that his "special knowledge" was a part of his own physiology, hence something he could not teach, and would die with him, there was nothing to be secretive about. What he could teach, and likely did teach José López Beltrán was the then common techniques of construction, techniques that could be learned from any competent maker.
Romanillos finds evidence that others were involved in the construction of several guitars built late in Torres' life (SEU 04, SEU 05, SE 139, SE 151, SE153, SE 155). Most of these date from 1890-1892. Romanillos speculates that that Miguel Moya Redondo may have been the luthier involved. The family seems to have asked Miguel Moya Redondo to finish some instruments that Torres left unfinished. Guitar SE 155 dated 1892 seems to have been one of these. I find Romanillos' argument convincing that Miguel Moya finished SE 155 because it exhibits decorative elements Moya used in his own guitars. I findRomanillos' argument much less than persuasive for guitars built during Torres life. I doubt that Miguel Moya Redondo would give up his own building and leave his shop to come and help Torres. Torres' economic situation in his last years, I believe also makes this unlikely. When his second wife died in 1883, he was left to raise to young daughters by himself. Although he went back to building full time, about half of these were humble, simple guitars that would not have put much money in his pocket. He doesn't seem to have been able to pay his bills. Torres died so deep in debt that all his property had to be sold to pay his creditors. Given these circumstances, I think that it is very unlikely Torres would been able to afford to pay Miguel Moya to come help him. I think it is much more likely that Torres took on José López Beltrán as an apprentice-- striking a bargain that he would teach him in exchange for his help. If one accepts my reasoning, then it much more likely José López Beltrán was the second hand involved in making the guitars that were finished before Torres died.