This is an outstanding Stradivari model violin by Jean Baptiste Vuillaume dating from around 1840. It’s in very good condition – the sound is powerful, brilliant and solistic.
Many hundreds of thousands of words have been written about the genius of JB Vuillaume, perhaps the second most successful violin-maker of all time after Stradivari. Essentially Vuillaume was someone who saw opportunities where others didn’t, and who had a wider vision outside of his talent as a maker which encompassed acoustics, engineering, history and culture, and of course the art of the deal!
By the time this violin was made Vuillaume was already running a busy and successful workshop focusing on copies of old Italian masters. The violins from this period have a characteristic slightly matt red varnish, and the antiquing to the back isn’t quite so extreme as it would later become.
Like many instruments made between about 1838 and 1840 this violin isn’t signed or numbered, and the tiny Vuillaume brand is placed in the upper back by the neck block. We aren’t sure why these violins weren’t numbered or signed, but one plausible theory is that Vuillaume was attempting to evade taxes by pretending to have made and sold fewer instruments than he actually had. He wouldn’t have been the first successful entrepreneur to resent paying his taxes…
The condition of the violin is very good. The back, ribs and scroll are entirely clean – the table has a post crack with an internal patch, a small crack running down from the right f-hole and another smaller crack in the upper left corner. The original varnish is very well preserved, and the overall appearance is very fresh.
The Vuillaume shop had a prodigious output, and not every instrument came out well. However, this violin is a great sounding example suitable for a concert stage – it’s big and muscular without being either harsh or mushy. It’s crisp and articulate in all parts of the register – there’s just enough colour in the sound to make it feel easy, but it’s also transparent and precise.
With a strong bow there’s not really any limit to the amount of sound it will produce, and the high register is particularly strong.
All in all a robust and healthy instrument for a concertmaster or a soloist, very adaptable and very efficient.