Bella Voce is Italian for “beautiful voice”; this model was introduced in 1927 and remained in the Gibson line for only three years. Described in Gibson’s 1927 banjo catalog as “a royal member of the banjo family”, the Bella Voce was one of the most ornate banjos ever produced by the company and was available with a variety of woods and trim options; this example features multicolored “Christmas tree” binding on the neck, rim, and resonator, along with the finish option which Gibson called “white holly” but which was actually white-painted maple. Although Gibson literature described the resonator and neck ornamentation of the Bella Voce as being hand-carved, in reality only the peghead and heel decorations were carved; the designs on the back and sides of the resonator were pressed. The tone ring is the no-hole cast raised-head type most commonly associated with 1927 production; the Grover “two-hump” clamshell tailpiece is engraved “Bella Voce“, and the peghead overlay and rosewood fingerboard are inlaid with the most intricate inlay pattern of any catalogued Gibson banjo. The gold-plated hardware features the elaborate Bella Voce engraving pattern on the tension hoop, tone ring, flange, and tailpiece. The armrest is engraved with the pattern typically seen on the Granada.
Factory order numbers with leading zeroes are seen on prewar Gibson banjos only for a brief period in 1927-1928, concurrent with the introduction of the Bella Voce and Florentine models. The rim-stamped factory order number on this example is unusually stamped on the opposite side of the rim from normal, as well as upside down. #0121-21 remains in original condition including a plush-lined period hard shell case.
Photos courtesy of an anonymous owner.