Charles JB Collin-Mézin Violin, Paris 1884

£12,000

Charles JB Collin-Mézin ViolinCollin-Mézin is probably one of the best known names in the violin trade. Although the firm went rather downhill in the 20th century, pre-1900 violins by Collin-Mézin Senior are very sought after, partly because they represent the best in French workmanship, partly because they are always successful tonally.

This example is a lovely Guarneri model from the 1880s, and it has the fine golden varnish that characterizes these earlier models. The workmanship and the materials are first class – the table is of remarkably even-grained spruce and the one-piece back has a dramatic flame with a lot of reflectivity. Everything about this violin oozes quality.

Authentic Collin-Mézin instruments always have inking to the scroll and rib joins, the labels are dated, and there’s a very characteristic signature south of the soundpost. Sometimes the neck set on these violins can be a bit steep, but this one is spot-on.

Condition-wise there’s no point pretending that this violin is in its prime. It’s no spring chicken – it’s had a lot of use, the edges are a bit worn, and there’s a significant repair under the right leg of the bridge with a soundpost patch on the inside of the table.

However, the repair is neatly executed and completely stable. The repair was carried out before the previous owner acquired the violin in the 1950s, so it must date back at least 70 years.

Collin-Mézins are popular for a reason! This one is about as good as they get, a flat-arched Guarneri model, wide in the lower bouts and with a huge sound, well-balanced, rich and fruity. It has great response, and it manages to be bright and zingy without sacrificing any of the dark core in the lower register. It’s very even, offering the same response and breadth of sound throughout the register – no wolf notes, no weak notes, no pokey notes. In short, a tremendous violin with a rare combination of power and musicality.

I have a lot of instruments here that I could choose to play, but this one has immediately taken pride of place in our music room. The sound and playability are simply unbeatable at this price.

Dimensions: length of back 35.7cm, stop 129/196mm

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