Antonio Gragnani Violin, Livorno 1768-80

Price on application

Antonio Gragnani ViolinAntonio Gragnani is a maker whose work is immediately recognizable and unique – here we have a lovely example made affordable by the fact that the head is later. The sound is brilliant and exciting.

Most makers show very strong clues as to their training, but Gragnani is a bit of a mystery. We assume that he learnt violin-making in Florence – certainly his varnish seems very close to Carcassi – but he was obviously more influenced by the Cremonese makers than by Stainer. His violins have slightly elongated look to them, with narrow waists and very rounded shoulders.

This violin is typical of his more Amatise style, with rather dainty f-holes and a strong recurve to the arching. The table is of extremely fine grain broadening towards the flanks – evidence of a very slow-grown tree of quite small diameter. The back is of beautiful slightly quilted oppio (field maple), not quite matching.

The condition is fair – a few repaired cracks to the table, the ribs with one restored crack on the lower treble rib, the back free from damage. On the table there are cracks running from below both f-holes to the edges, wing cracks above, and a few very minor short cracks. There’s some retouch under the bridge and a post patch – the right upper f-hole tongue has also dropped a bit. Most of the table has been half-edged, and there’s a tiny bit of new wood just inside the purfling in the upper right of the table. The scroll doesn’t belong to the violin, but it appears to be a very fine Italian scroll – in fact the Beare paper from the 1960s considered it to be original.

Gragnanis are renowned for their tonal excellence, and this one is true to type, with a big, zingy sound. It’s beautifully balanced throughout the register, and particularly winning in the higher reaches. The sound is quite coloured, what I would call “ripe” – friendly and easy to play but also somehow exciting. It’s probably not quite stiff enough if you’re going to front the Berlin Phil, but it would make a superb violin for recitals or exposed chamber music performance.

The replacement scroll has no consequences for the sound, but it does make quite a difference to the price, which remains quite reasonable for such a first class instrument.

Dimensions: length of back 35.4cm, stop 131/196mm

Certificate: Charles Beare, J&A Beare, London 2009

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Antonio Gragnani Violin front photo Antonio Gragnani Violin back photo Antonio Gragnani Violin side photo Antonio Gragnani Violin scroll photo
Antonio Gragnani Violin label  

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