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Ken Smith 10-14-2007 07:36 PM

The Homer Mensch Gagliano...
Skinner's Auction House of Boston just auctioned off this Bass today.

I happen know this Bass personally. I have played it recently in NY, played with Homer playing that Gagliano Bass in a section and had him beside me playing it with me on Electric Bass in the studio. It is a beautiful Bass. As with many old Basses, they have been repaired by many many people over the centuries and too often we see undesirable work that is sometimes irreversible.

This Bass could do with a major restoration but some things that have been done, cannot be un-done. At some point in its life, the Bass was cut down from a larger size. I have seen a nearly identical Gagliano side by side to this one that was in its original state size-wise.

I had a concert today, the day of the Auction so I could not go and bid on the Bass personally. Also, I recently compared my old Italian Cornerless Bass to it and I favored the type of sound and thicker tone of my Bass. Someone will end up with this great Bass either way before long. It just wont be me.

Ken Smith 10-14-2007 07:44 PM

More on the Gagliano..
This is a beautiful and sweet sounding Bass. There are many generations of the Gagliano family with the founder having worked with both N.Amati and Strad before returning to Naples. This one I thought was attributed to Joseph Gagliano because of the Scroll but I just recently learned that Homer considered it to be the work of Ferdinand. The other Bass like it I have seen has the same Scroll but different FFs and was not cut down. That I think is a Joseph. Actually, this one sounded better to my ears. Having played both I prefer Homer's that was cut.

This Bass has been on more recordings with the bow then probably any other single Bass. If not, my statement is close. Homer was the #1 Studio call for DB for decades in NY. Jaws theme was one recording that this Bass has been heard on.

I have played many cut down Basses in my life and this one is about average. Neapolitan instruments in general are usually on the crude side. Here is Homer's Bass along side my Loveri which was cut as well. Carlo Loveri was the maker for the last generation of the Gagliano's. Also, both Basses were used in the NY Philharmonic as well.

And from the front view (notice the FFs how they both hook inwards at the upper eyes);

If I didn't have the Basses I currently have, I would most likely wanted to bid on this one. The previous asking price in a NY shop for this Gagliano was 200k. Even with a needed costly restoration, anything under 100k is a great price for this Bass and the history that goes with it.

I don't know when the Gagliano was cut but possibly before we were all born. It's been like that as long as I can remember. The Loveri was cut in 1937 and labeled within. My Gilkes was cut around 1870 and my former Prescott is estimated to have been cut before 1840.

The sound of this Gagliano has always been known in its 'cut' shape in our lifetime. I suspect that he bought it that way. He had another Italian Bass attributed to Goffriller. The Goffriller, now owned by a former student of Homer's was cut down decades ago at Homer's request. The Gagliano was his main and favorite Bass used for just about all his playing gigs.

Ken Smith 10-14-2007 07:46 PM

and more..
In case you guys were not aware Skinner's collects an additional 17.5% commission on the final price from the winning bidder as well as deducts the same from the sellers net return.

A Bass bid to $100k will actually cost you $117,500.oo PLUS Sales Tax unless you are a Dealer with a registered Tax ID#. Then you only save the Tax!

I hear that Christy's Auction House just raised their fees to 25% to both the buyer and seller.. OUCH... Plus tax of course..

I think the Basses were willed to the Schools he taught in. After a year or so of them on the market, they decided to set the date of sale with this auction. A Tyrolean Bass and a Pfretzschner Bass are also being auction as well. It was thought that the Schools would have divided up the Basses but either they don't need them or can't agree on who gets the Gagliano or they just went for the money to be divided as Homer stated in his Will. I don't really profess to know all that much about the situation, just heard a few things.

I can tell you this though. I have heard through the walls that some serious bidders (and some not so serious) will show up for this Bass. It might be the most exciting Bass Auction in decades. One thing for sure, the winner is not walking away cheap on this one!

The low ball price of 60-80k is a scheme to entice bidders into a frenzy and it just might happen that way.

This time Monday a few days from now, this will all be history.

I have a concert on Sunday and will be using my own fine Italian Cornerless Bass so I will just wait and see like the rest of you guys..

That's all I have to say about that..

Ken Smith 10-14-2007 07:52 PM

Gagliano Sold! Conclusion..
As expected, the Bass went for over 100k. The actual winning bid was $120k. With the 17.5% commission (up to $80k and then 10% after that), the buyers net before taxes and shipping (not to mention needed repair costs) was $138k.

I can't go into details about who won the auction other than I think it was a European bidder. As far as the "under bidder" goes (the one who almost won the auction), this too is not public information.

Bottom line is that who ever got this Bass paid a fair market price for it. Happy ending in my book.

FYI, This was an unlabeled uncertified Double Bass believed to made by the Gagliano Family of makers of Naples, Italy in the latter part of the 18th century. I wonder what price the Bass would have with 2 or more sets of Papers/Certificates and an authentic label? Confirmed Pedigree or not, this Bass went for some serious money.

Note: This Thread was initially started on TalkBass on 10/4/07. I have copied most of what I posted there but changed some of the text to reflect current time.

Ken Smith 04-02-2022 12:31 AM

About a decade later, give or take, I learned thru research that this bass is and was sold as 'Gagliano School' or maybe just Neapolitan and not made by any of the Gagliano family makers. Possibly by Ventapane, but the bass was cut down a long time ago. I have seen since then, at lease 3 other Ventapane basses. All beautiful instruments. One of them, I took lessons on when I was 19 and didn't know then what it was.

In a mint 1934 Juzek catalog (Metropolitan Music), given to me by the Juzek family as a quasi 60th birthday present, there is a picture of Anselme Fortier with this same bass. Fortier was the Principal of the NY Philharmonic. I believe that Homer Mensch had worked in the Philharmonic in his early years as pictured in the 1941 bass section picture. So, it is fair to say that Homer got the bass from Fortier. The shoulders were cut then in the 1934 catalog. I believe the catalog was a re-print of an earlier catalog with updated prices as it was maybe too much work to do a completely new catalog.

This information in no way takes anything away from the bass homer played for decades. In searching now for Joseph Gagliano, this thread came up in Google. My reason is I currently have a certified Joseph & Antonio Gagliano bass that I got last year and is now in restoration.

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