Paul Bailly is definitely the most interesting maker to have come out of the Vuillaume shop, and this is a typically bold creation of his based on del Gesu. It’s in excellent condition and has a full and responsive voice.
Bailly was a tireless experimenter – he also moved house a lot, working in Paris, Brussels, London, New York, Reims, Leeds, and finally Paris again! Very few makers worked to so many different models, and yet his style is always distinctive, with a softness around the edges quite uncharacteristic of French making in this period, and much more faithful to the classical instruments he copied.
This is a very pretty small violin (LOB 35.1cm) dating from his first Paris sojourn – beautifully preserved, with a carefree elegance to the work and to the varnish. No condition issues to report other than a small repaired wing crack to the right f-hole. There’s been a bit of retouching to wear on the table, but otherwise the original varnish is relatively unblemished.
This violin is as un-French in sound as it is in design. Many of the Vuillaume makers produced powerful instruments, but with a stiff metallic edge. In contrast, this violin has a dark and fruity sound, very rich, undeniably “big”, but incapable of shrillness. It’s a smooth ride, very grown-up, quite unexpected for such a small model until you consider that it’s based on Del Gesu, the only classical maker who consistently produced a big dark sound for a small back length.
This is a thoroughly professional instrument which works equally well with a featherlight bow stroke or the full sumo approach. Great in high positions, utterly unflappable, with a muscular rounded voice.