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Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume Violin, Paris 1840


This violin was made by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume in 1840, in Paris. In his time, Vuillaume was one of the most well-known figures in the musical world, being a maker, dealer, inventor, and all-round personality. He was born in Mirecourt in 1798, and studied extensively with his father Claude François Vuillaume for the majority of his adolescence. In 1818 he moved to Paris, where he initially worked with François Chanot, and subsequently Joseph Dominique Lété between 1821 and 1827.After working in a number of different firms, gaining further experience in both making instruments and running various businesses, he established his own his workshop in the Rue Croix-des-Petits Champs in 1827, where he remained for the next thirty years until his retirement in 1858.

Vuillaume was very well-known as a copyist, and one of the reasons he was able to become so proficient and knowledgeable about older, fine Cremonese instruments was his purchase of 144 instruments from the Italian dealer Luigi Tarisio. This collection included an astounding number of instruments, including the 'Messiah' violin by Antonio Stradivarius, of which Tarisio said "I have a Strad - so wonderful one must adore it on one's knees!" and which to this day is one of the most reserved and finest Strads in existence today. This expertise as a copyist undoubtedly informed his own style and making, and his own instruments reflect the quality and workmanship of many of the greats of the previous century. His workshop was also a foundational stepping stone for a number of other bow and violin-makers, such as Derazey, some members of the Peccatte family, and Voirin, among others. Even if his legacy was measured by only a single one of his ventures, Vuillaume's impact on the world of instrument making would already be immense. Taking in all of his work as a whole, it is impossible to quantify the true extent of his influence across the worlds of making, performance, and instrument dealing. 

This violin has no internal label, but it is sold with certificates from W.E Hill & Sons (11/09/1959) and Etienne Vatelot (23/03/1977). It also has a Hill number stamped on the fingerboard.. The body measures 356mm along the back, 170mm across the upper bouts and 203mm across the lower bouts. It has a two-piece back of well-flamed maple, with a medium curl, and the wood of the ribs and scroll has been chosen to match. The top is a finely grained spruce of even growth, and the violin has been finished with a golden brown varnish with rosewood pegs, and a boxwood tailpiece.

It has a patient, smooth, and expansive sound, which layers complexity and refinement in all registers and characters. The G and D strings are richly resonant and speak quickly and easily, making strident characters easy to reach without becoming too rough. The upper strings have the same singing quality as many fine Italian violins - perhaps evident of his conservatorship and close study of many Cremonese instruments of the 18th Century - and keep the clarity of tone easily even in very high positions. Overall, the tone of this instrument is best characterised as elegant, sophisticated, and grand, and would be a perfect instrument for someone performing in small ensembles or soloistic repertoire.