“The history of the Panormo Family as recorded in the various dictionaries of violin makers, is shrouded in confusion. The difficulties arise for several reasons: “Vincenzo’s wanderings; the use of the same first names in different generations; and the lack of labels in instruments.” Vincenzo 1734 - 1813, (known as “old Panormo” from Palermo, Sicily) was one of the most widely travelled of violin makers, settled in London in 1790 or 1791.
Joseph is believed to have been born in Naples in 1768, though his father moved the family to Paris and then to Dublin to escape the French Revolution. The Panormo family had certainly settled in London by 1791, and at the age of 23, Joseph would have been a fully competent instrument maker who would have shared the duties in his father’s workshop. Joseph left his father and opened his own shop at a number of addresses, but principally at 39 King Street, Soho where he made guitars, violins, cellos and double basses. (His son, Edward Ferdinand Panormo, joining the family firm when he was only 11 years old.) Joseph continued working in various locations in Soho until his death in 1837, but died in the St. Anne’s Workhouse, and was described as a pauper on his death certificate.
Joseph’s basses are quite similar to those of his father, which, over the years, has caused some difficulties with attribution. We believe that Joseph made about 10 basses in total, although some of these are currently known as the work of Vincenzo, who made about 20. *Features in The English Double Bass Book - 2018*
It is no coincidence that London became the main centre for double bass makers in Europe, as the arrival of the very famous Venetian virtuoso Domenico Dragonetti in England in 1794, was a key factor. Beside bringing a number of early Italian Basses to London, whose restoration was entrusted to the Panormo family, Dragonetti was instrumental in commissioning new basses for himself and his pupils.
The outline is bold, being broader across the bottom bouts than Vincenzo’s grand pattern but otherwise remaining quite similar to it. The back is carved from two book-matched pieces of figured maple. The ribs are of similar wood, although they are not as deep as the ribs on some of his other basses. The instrument has been coated with a fine oil varnish of a rich dark red-brown colour; and applied over an under-coating of a warm golden-orange colour & double-purfled both front and back.”