This instrument, also called “quarto di mandolino” in Naples, an ultracute mandolin in my opinion, was probably invented because of the weak technical skills of the XIX century musicians.
As a matter of fact, at that time most of the plectrum instrument players were amateurs working as barbers, shoe makers and what other during the day. Therefore no time could be dedicated to practice musical techniques such as the use of acute mandolin notes (those given by the narrow frets toward the harmonic box).
In the ultracute mandolin those notes can be found in the upper part of the fingerboard (the wide frets) and are , therefore much easier to touch.
As you can imagine, this instrument was invented to allow an easier performance of musical compositions that would have otherwise required very qualified skills that only a few musicians of the time possessed.
This mandolin can also be very well employed by children during music lessons.
Time required for construction : three months
Weight :about 400 grams/0.88 lbs.
Length 490 millimeters (196 Inch.)
Types of wood employed : rosewood and maple wood for the body, ebony for the fingerboard, firwood for the harmonic box.
Polishing : opaque (ancient style) or hand polished (blotted polishing with shellac)
Number of frets : 16
Strings : (generally the mandolin ones) 1^A 0.10 (Inch.) – 2^D 0.14 (Inch.) – 3^G 0.23 (Inch.) – 4^C 0.32 (Inch.).
Number of staves: 11.
Sound range :
As you can see the tuning is identical to that of the contralto mandola but has notes that are higher by one octave.