Giovanni Minieri’s mandolin is at the center of a beautiful Neapolitan mystery. The instrument, manufactured in the early 1900s, has traveled in space and time from Naples to Poland, and from Germany to the United States – where it currently resides. And it has effectively covered the tracks of its origins.
The craftsman who made it, Mainieri, is the main source of mystery in this story. The label on the bottom of the instrument’s body is evidence he was a “luthier”, and the owner of a company name after him – “a premier manufacturer of harmonic instruments”, founded in 1870 and located in Naples, in Vico delle Cappuccinelle, near Piazza Dante. The whole company, apparently, has vanished without a trace.
Yet the mandolin is quite a work of art. Its four double steel strings, inlay work, and mother of pearl and ivory details make it a classic Neapolitan-style mandolin, inspired by those made by Casa Vinaccia, the historic company that had been making exquisite lutes in the same area since the mid-1700s.
We can certainly imagine a sweet soundtrack for this Neapolitan mystery.