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Ifshin Rare & Fine Instruments

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Jean Baptiste Vuillaume

sku Product SKU:  17290

Jean Baptiste Vuillaume is widely recognized as one of the finest 19th century luthiers, leaving an indelible mark on the French tradition and influencing generations of violin makers and dealers throughout the musical world. His career is marked by a relentless drive to construct the perfect instrument, combining the classical Italian tradition with contemporary French style. He had access to one of the largest caches of old Italian instruments, which he studied assiduously to recreate the great masterpieces, at an affordable price. He was so successful in fact that he counted among his many prizes at World’s Fairs and International Exhibitions, the Cross of the Legion of Honor, the highest honor in France. Never satisfied to rest upon his laurels, Vuillaume unceasingly strove for superior quality throughout his career, constructing together with his talented staff of luthiers nearly 3,000 superb instruments. 

When Vuillaume moved his shop to 3 rue de Ternes in 1858, at the age of 60, his intention was not to retire, but to focus his energies on constructing the finest instruments for concert musicians, collectors, and European nobility. After working in the heart of Paris for 30 years, Vuillaume had fashioned a flourishing business through careful attention to clients of all incomes, brilliant innovations in the craft, and a unique synthesis of contemporary French elegance inspired by the old Italian masterworks of Stradivarius and Guarneri del Gesu. His customers included great musicians like Piatti, Servais, and Paganini, great pedagogues like De Beriot, Savart, and Dancla, and nobility from Spain to Russia. He brought this international fame with him to his new workbench in the outskirts of Paris. 

He set up his private studio in the attic of his atelier. It was here that he personally finished and varnished all the instruments that were to bear his flamboyant signature. Not satisfied with allowing an instrument of merely competent quality to go forth from his workshop, he guaranteed that the archings would facilitate the silky power desired by Europe’s best musicians, that the scrolls were masterfully conceived and sculpted, that the purfling was perfectly laid- in short that his instruments were up to his highest of standards both tonally and aesthetically. He took particular pains to ensure his unique varnish recipes and application techniques were not copied by competitors. He not only varnished each and every instrument produced in his atelier, legend has it he stuffed his apron with aromatic herbs to cover up the scent of individual ingredients. 

Millant CertificationMade in 1873, this violin is one of the last instruments constructed in Vuillaume’s workshop, and the accompanying sales receipt and certificate show it was last sold by the important Parisian firm of Roger & Max Millant in the 1950’s. The scroll is well balanced, always elegant. The turns on the volutes are harmonious and easy, spiraling fluidly toward a softly rounded eye. The purfling is perfectly set with ebony, gracefully framing the instrument. The one-piece back is of a magnificently flamed piece of maple. The top is of a typically wide-grained piece of dense spruce, ideal for a glowing, soaring sonority. Ever the perfectionist, Vuillaume selected all the wood for its’ aesthetic as well as tonal properties. The instrument is modelled on the work of Guarneri Del Gesu and is dressed in a rich golden red varnish with a soft rose colored hue. Like many Vuillaume violins, this nimble instrument is possessed of a powerful response, giving the player total musical control. The tone is nuanced in color and rich in resonance, perfect for a concert violinist or chamber musician.

Article by Raphael Gold
All photographs by Richard Ward

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Charles Adolphe Gand

sku Product SKU:  18794

Like so many of the finest luthiers, Charles Adolph Gand grew up in a family with a long lineage of important makers. His pedigree can be traced back to Nicolas Lupot of Orleans, arguably France’s most influential maker. After studying with and working for Francois Pique, the first of the French makers working in the “modern” style, Lupot set up in Paris in 1798. His accolades include an appointment to the Imperial Chapel in 1813, luthier to King Louis XVIII in 1816, and a commission as luthier to the Paris Conservatory of Music in 1817, to whom he would make an instrument for the winner of the annual competition. In 1802 he hired Charles Francois Gand, known as Gand Pére, as apprentice.

Charles Francois Gand, the father of Charles Adolph Gand, was himself a first rate luthier. Having learned the “modern” style from his master, Gand Pére constructed instruments on the Stradivarius model rather than the Stainer or Amati models. In other words, he preferred instruments with a flatter arching which achieved a powerful sound fit for contemporary concert halls. In 1820 he acquired the shop of another influential Parisian maker, Koliker, building a large atelier of international importance. Though he was considered a rival to the thriving businesss of Vuillaume and Lupot, he maintained a good relationship with Lupot. When Lupot retired in 1824, he passed all his official appointments to Gand Pére.

Charles Adolph Gand, also known as Gand Frére, took over his father’s shop in 1845. Steeped in a rich tradition of France’s best luthiers, Gand flourished as one of the finest makers of his generation. Working with his brother Eugene, he won 1st prize at the Paris Exhibition in 1855, receiving the prize directly from Napoleon III, the emperor of France. In 1862 he was made Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, the highest honor in France. A source of national pride, he was also the official luthier to the Paris opera and to the Emperor. Because he was an acclaimed expert of old instruments he had limited time to make instruments. Yet his entire production is of the highest quality, and is sought after by collectors and professional musicians alike.

This violin is exemplary of his production. All the woodwork is exquisite and elegant, the varnish a rich red with a touch of antiquing. The tone is clear and fresh with plenty of power. It is in exceptional condition and would be fit for a collector or professional musician.

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