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preparation. Be this as it may, it is certain that the varnish of
Pique has not served to benefit these instruments ; on the con-
trary, it has derogated considerably from their value. The tone
of Lupot's instruments improves yearly. The quality is round
and telling, and free from roughness. He died in Paris in 1824,
aged 66, and was succeeded in his business by his son-in-law,
Francois Gand.

MEDARD, Nicholas, Nancy. One of the early French

MEDARD, Franciscus, Paris, 1710. Stradiuarius pattern,
good varnish.

Franciscus Medari
fecit Parisiis 1710.

MEDARD, Jean, Nancy. Similar to the above.

MiREMONT, Paris. Exhibited at the Paris Exhibition a
Violin with a second sound bar. Experiments of this nature
are harmless enough when performed upon modern instru-
ments, but cannot be too strongly deprecated when old and

8o TIII-: r/o/./x.

rare works are subjected to such levity. An American, some
years since, patented an invention where a second sound bar
was made to run from block to block, and for the insertion of
this freak many valuable Violins were so wantonly sacrificed
that their original blocks were cut down. The results, as might
be expected, were anything but satisfactory, and necessitated
the removal of the improvement and the substitution of entirely
new blocks. The invention of Miremont has shared a similar
ignominious fate ; but, fortunately, few old instruments were
subjected to the torture which ripped open their bellies in order
to add a new organ to their interior.

By all means preserve your Violins from falling into the
hands of enthusiastic inventors !

Mirernont has made several excellent Violins, copies of
Stradiuarius and Guarnerius.

MODESSIER, Paris, 1810. Made several instruments of
large pattern, excellent for orchestral purposes. Wood of good

NAMY, Paris, 1800.

NICHOLAS. The instruments of this maker are chieHy of
large size, the outline being after that of Stradiuarius. They
are mostly stamped on the back, inside. Colour, yellow ; tone
very powerful, and admirably adapted for the orchestra.
NIGGEL, Paris, tyth century.
OUVRARD, pupil of Claude Pierray.

PAUL, Saint, Paris, ijth century. Chiefly copied Amati.
In the style of Bqcquay.
PICHOL, Paris.

PIERRAV, Claude, Paris, 1725. Was an excellent workman,
and many of his productions partake of the Italian character to
a considerable extent. They are of two pat-
Claude Pierray, terns, the majority being large. Amati would
proche la Comedie seem to have been his model, but his instru-
a Paris, 1725. ments can scarcely be considered copies of
that maker, the outline only being retained,
while the other features are dissimilar. The wood is rarely
handsome, but its quality is good. The thicknesses are varia-
ble. The work is of average merit. Varnish is of a pale red
colour, of good quality.

PIETE, Noel, Paris, 1780. Made many Violins, having good

PIQUE, Paris, 1792. As a copyist of Stradiuarius, this
maker approached, perhaps, nearest to Nicholas Lupot. It has
been supposed that many Violins bear-
Pique, rue de Crenelle ing the name of Pique were made by
St. Honore, au coin de celle Lupot, and varnished only by Pique.
des 2 Ecus, a Paris, 1790 This, however, is pure conjecture,
which the marked dissimilarity between


the works of Pique and that of Lupot at once disposes of.
There are several specimens of Pique's instruments upon which
have been lavished care and skill of a very high order. Each
feature is brought out, while, at the same time, that common
error of the copyist, exaggeration, is avoided. The scrolls are
well executed both in point of finish and style ; the sound-hole
also is cut with precision. Many of his instruments have whole
backs of well-chosen material ; the bellies are all of fine quality
of wood. The instruments of Pique have long been esteemed,
and will grow in reputation.

PONS, Paris.

PONS, Grenoble, 1790.

RAMBEAUX, Paris, 1840 1860. Was a clever repairer, and
gifted with excellent judgment in his treatment of the works of
the old masters. He was at one time in the workshop of Gand.


REINAULT, i6th century.

REMY, London, 1840. Originally from Paris. Copied the
old masters with average ability but unfortunately adopted the
pernicious practice of preparing the wood, making his instru-
ments prematurely old without the qualities of healthy age.

SALLE, Paris, 1830. Made several copies of Guarnerius,
many of which are excellent. He was also a clever restorer of
old instruments, and had a critical eye for the works of the old
Italian masters, in which he dealt to some extent.

SALZAR. Made Violins of the character of Chapuy, but
with inferior varnish.

SAUNIER, 1740.

SOQUER, Louis, Paris, 1750. Neat workmanship. Narrow
pattern ; long middle bouts ; yellow varnish.

SVLVESTRE, Lyons, 1835. A maker of rare abilities. The
finish of his instruments is of the highest order ; indeed, it would
be difficult to find any maker within the range of the modern
French school who has surpassed him in delicate workmanship.
It may be said of him, as of many others, that extreme fineness
of work is obtained often at the expense of character ; to
develope both necessarily needs the mind of a Stradiuarius.
Sylvestre was fortunate in procuring wood of beautiful quality ;
there is scarcely an instrument of his which is not handsome.
He copied Stradiuarius. It is to be regretted that so few of his
works are to be met with.

THERESS, London.

THIBOUT, Paris, 1824. A well-known dealer in rare Italian
instruments. To him belongs the merit of having encouraged
Louis Tarisio to bring to Paris his Cremonese gems. When
Tarisio paid his first visit to Paris the reception that he met
with, was not of such a nature as to warrant his returning ; but
having" ultimately decided upon once more visiting the French
capital, he met with Thibout, who, by earnest solicitation,


prevailed on him to remove his rich wares permanently to

TYVVERSUS, i6th century. Probably the earliest maker of
Violins in France. He worked near Mirecourt.


VALLER, Marseilles, 1700.

VERON, Paris, 1720 1750.

VUILLAUME, John, Mirecourt, 1700 1740.

VUILLAUME,). B., Paris, born 1799, died 1875. There are
upwards of 2,500 Violins which bear his name. Many of these
he made throughout. The early ones are much appreciated,
and having been wisely varnished all over at first, now begin
to show the good results of such handling. The career of
Vuillaume was singularly eventful. Commencing life from the
first stage of the ladder, he gradually mounted to the highest
by the help of the usual nurses of fortune, skill and persever-
ance. He was a great lover of Cremonese instruments, and
was intimately associated with Tarisio. At the death of the
celebrated Italian connoisseur he purchased the whole of his
collection. Among them were the " Stradiuarius " exhibited
at the Exhibition of 1862, and the Double-Basses by Gaspard
di Salo and Carlo Bergonzi, the latter of which is at present in
my possession.

VUILLAUME, N. F., Brussels. Brother of the above. Well
known both as a maker and connoisseur.


IT is somewhat remarkable that the Continental writers on
the Violin should have omitted to mention any English
maker, either ancient or modern. Such an omission must
have occurred either from want of information concerning our
best makers, or, if known, they must have been deemed
unworthy of the notice of our foreign friends. There is no
mention of an English maker in Fetis's treatise on Antonius
Stradiuarius, although numerous very inferior German and
Italian makers are quoted. The same omission is also, con-
spicuous in '' Luthomonographie " and "Otto on the Construc-
tion of the Violin." It may be that Continental connoisseurs
have credited themselves with the works of our best makers,
and expatriated them, while they have inexorably allowed bad
English fiddles to retain their nationality. However, it is my
desire that my foreign brothers should be enlightened on this
point, and in all candour informed of the array of makers that
England has at different times produced, and is yet capable of
producing, did but the new Violin command the price that
would be a fair return for the time and skill required in the
production of an instrument at once useful and artistic. It will
be my endeavour to show forth the qualities of those of our
makers whose names, as yet, seem never to have crossed the
Channel, so that when these pages on the English school are
read by distant connoisseurs, and the merits and shortcomings
of the makers therein are fairly weighed by them, the good
shall be found so to outweigh the indifferent as to entirely
change the opinions formed of us as makers of the leading

Until within the last 30 years makers of Violins in England
would appear to have been comparatively numerous, if we take
into consideration the undeveloped state of stringed instrument
music at that period in this country. Among those makers
were many of no ordinary genius, men who worked lovingly,
guided by motives distinct from commercial gain, as long as
they were allowed to live by their work. When, however, the
-duties on foreign musical instruments were removed, the effect
was to partially swamp the gallant little band of fiddle makers,
who were quite unable to compete with the French and German
makers in price (not excellence, be it distinctly understood, for
we were undoubtedly ahead of our foreign competitors, both in



style and finish at this period). The prices commanded by
many English makers previous to the repeal of the duty were
thoroughly remunerative. Five to twenty pounds were given
for English Violins, while Violoncellos and Tenors commanded
prices proportionately high. The English Violin makers were
thus enabled to bestow artistic care in the making of their
instruments. When, however, they were suddenly called upon
to compete on equal terms with a legion of foreign manufactur-
ers, the result was not so much that their ardour was damped,
as that they themselves were extinguished, and served as an-
other instance of the truth of the adage that the good of the
many is the bane of the few.

In matters of magnitude, whether artistic or otherwise,
competition is undoubtedly healthy, their being always a small
body of patrons who are willing to check the tendency to dete-
riorate, common to all productions, by encouraging the worker
with extra remuneration, in order that a high degree of excel-
lence may be maintained ; but in matters confined to a small
circle, as in the case of Violin making, the number of those
willing to encourage artistic workmanship is so minute as to
fail even to support one maker of excellence, and thus, when
deprived suddenly of its legitimate protection, the art, with
other similar handicrafts, must drift into decadence If we look
around the Violin world, all is much the same. In Italy there
are no Stradiuariuses in embryo, in France no coming Lupot,
in Germany no Jacobus Stainer, and in England no future Banks
or Forster. Why so? The answer is twofold. Partly there is
fault in the demand, arising from the marked preference of this
age for cheapness at the expense of goodness ; partly, too, there
is fault in the supply, a foolish desire on the part of the makers
to give maturity to their instruments, wherein they always com-
pletely fail, and yet will not give up their conceit. Here, again,
were we dealing with matters of more magnitude, the evil influ-
ence would be lessened, the artistic impulses would still be felt,
though in a less degree ; whereas, so contracted is the circle of
the Violin world, that under any stress the support given to
makers willing to bestow an artist's care on their work is totally

The case of modern Violin makers is unfortunate. Old
Violins being so immeasurably superior to modern productions,
the demand must necessarily set steadily for the former, and
the modern maker has only the few patrons of new work to
support him. It cannot be expected that the players of to-day
should patronize the modern Violin in order that the next
generation should reap the benefit. Years since it was quite a
different matter. The makers were well paid for their work,
and new instruments were then made to supply wants similar
to those which the horrid Mirecourt copy fulfils at present. As
with other things, so is it also with Violins ; if they are to be


produced with the stamp of artislic merit, they must be paid
for accordingly ; without patronage the worker necessarily be-
comes careless. Finding that his skill fails to attract attention,
he gradually sinks down into the mere routine of the ordinary
workman. When Italy shone brightest in art, the patronage
and remuneration which the workers received was consider-
able. Had it been otherwise, the powers of its Raphael, its
Cellini, and last (though not least to the admirers of the Violin),
its Stradiuarius would have remained simply dormant. Art,
like commerce, is regulated in a great measure by supply
and demand. In Raphael's day, sacred subjects were in
demand ; the Church was his great patron, and thus aided him
in bringing forth the gift which nature had implanted within
him. In modern times, landscape painting became the favoured
subject, particularly in England ; the result of which preference
has been to place us in the foremost rank in that branch of art.
The stage furnishes another instance of the effect that patronage
has in Bringing forth latent talent. If the history of dramatic
art be traced, it will be found that its chief works were written
when the tastes of an appreciative public could be securely
counted upon. As it waned so the writers of merit became
rarer, or perhaps it would be more correct to say, the plays
produced became less meritorious, the authors being con-
strained to pander to the prevailing taste.

_As further evidence of the effect of patronage on art, a
case in point is found in the fabric of Venetian glass. The
Venetians, centuries ago, became famous for their works in
glass, and the patronage they enjoyed was world-wide ; but
their country being thrown into an unsettled condition, capital
drifted from it, until the blowing of glass, together with other
industries, was comparatively extinguished. Within the past
few years the art of making glass has shown signs, even in
Venice itself, of reviving with all its former vigour in the work-
shops of Salviati, the success of which is due in great measure
to English capital.

With regard to English Violin manufacture, there would
be no reason why Violins should not, at the present moment,
be produced in England which should fully reach the standard
of merit maintained in our forefathers' days, if only the patron-
age of the art occupied a larger area. The present dearth of
English makers does not arise from any national want of talent
for this particular handicraft ; in fact, we have plenty of men
quite as enthusiastic as our foreign friends for a vocation which
in England also must be pronounced to be alike venerable in
its antiquity and famed for the dexterity of its genius.

The earliest makers of Viols in England seem to have
been Jay, Smith, Bolles, Ross, Addison, and Shaw, names
thoroughly British. We may take this as good evidence that
the making of Viols in England originated with the English,

,s'<5 THE VIOLI.\\

and was not commenced by settlers from the Continent.
Doubtless the form of the English Viol and its brethren was
taken from the Brescian makers, there being much affinity be-
tween these classes of instruments. In the few Violins extant
by Christopher Wise the Italian character about them is very
striking. In them we see a flat model, excellent outline, and
varnish of good quality. The Viols of Jay have the same
Italian character. Later on we have names of some reputa-
tion Rayman, Urquhart, and Barak Norman. In the absence
of any direct evidence as regards the nationality of these
makers it is requisite to endeavour to trace the style belonging
to their works. It will be observed that there was a great im-
provement in the style of work and varnish of instruments
made in England commencing with the time of Rayman, and
it is probable that this step in advance was obtained from in-
tercourse with Italy or the German Tyrol. Starting with Ray-
man, there is a German ring in the name which makes me
think that he came from Germany, and, if so, brought with him
the semi-Italian character of work common to the makers who
lived so near Brescia. If the work and style of Rayman be
carefully examined, it will be seen that it embraces much in
common with the inferior Brescian makers. The outline is
rugged, the sound-hole is of that Gothic form peculiar to
Brescia, the head is distinct from that of the early English type.
At the same period Urquhart made instruments of great merit,
the varnish of which is superior to that of Rayman's, but is evi-
dently composed of similar ingredients. Its superiority may-
have arisen from a different mode of mixing only. The name
of Urquhart has a North British sound, and it is probable that
he was born in Scotland, and settled in London as an assistant
to Rayman, who would impart to him the style of foreign

The semi-Italian character pervading the instruments made
in England at this period seems to have culminated in the pro-
ductions of Barak Norman, whose best works bear even a more
marked Brescian character than those of Rayman. The model
varies very much, sometimes being high, at other times very
flat ; in the latter case the results are instruments of the Mag-
gini type. Barak Norman frequently doubled-purfled his in-
struments, and inserted a device in the purfling, evidently
following Maggini in these particulars. With Barak Norman
ends the list of English copyists of the Brescian makers.

We now arrive at the copyists of Jacobus Stainer and the
Amatis, a class of makers who possessed great abilities, and
knew how to use them. The first name to be mentioned is
Benjamin Banks, of Salisbury, who may with propriety be
termed the English Amati. He was the first English maker
who recognised the superior form of Amati's model over that
of Stainer, and devottd all his energies to a successful imita-


tion. Too much praise could not be lavished on Banks for the
example which he selected for himself and his fellow makers.

Next follow the names of Forster, Duke, Hill, Wamsley,
Belts, Gilkes, Hart, and Kennedy, together with those of
Panormo, Fendt, and Lott, who, although not born in England,
passed the greater part of their lives here, and therefore require
to be classed with the English school. The mention of these
makers will bring the reader to the present time.

Upon scanning this goodly list there will be found ample
evidence that we in England have had makers of sufficient
merit to entitle us to rank as a distinct school, a school of no
mean order. We may, therefore, assume that Continental
writers who from time to time have published lists of makers
of the Violin, and have invariably ignored England, have erred
through want of information regarding the capabilities of our
makers, both ancient and modern.

The following list will be found to enumerate nearly the
whole of the English makers, and the distinctive character of
their separate works.



BSAM, Thomas, Wakefield, 1833.

Made by

Thomas Absam,

Wakefield, Feb. 14,


ADAMS, Garmouth, Scotland, 1800.

ADDISON, William, London, 1670.

AIRETON, Edward. Was originally employed in the work-
shop of Peter Wamsley, at the " Harp and Hautboy," in Picca-
dilly. He made a great many excellent Violins and Violon-
cellos, and chiefly copied Amati. Varnish of fair quality;
colour, yellow. He died, at the advanced age of 80, in the
year 1807.

ALDRED, 1560. One of the earliest makers of Viols in
England, who possessed a considerable reputation.

ASKEV, Samuel, London, 1825.

BAINES, 1780.

BAKER, Oxford, i8th century.

BALLANTINE, Edinburgh and Glasgow, 1850.

BANKS, Benjamin, Salisbury, born 1727, died 1795. To this

famous maker must be given the foremost place in the English

school. He was a thorough artist, and would

Benjamin Banks not have been thought lightly of had he worked

Fecit in Cremona's school, and been judged by its

Salisbury. standard. This may be considered excessive

praise of our native maker ; but an unprejudiced

judge of work need only turn to the best specimens of Bank's

instruments, and he will confess
Benjamin Banks, that I have merely recorded a. fact.

Musical instrument Maker, Banks is, again one of the

lii Catherine Street, Salisbury, 1780. many instances of men who have

gained a lasting reputation, but

whose histories have never reached the light to which their
names have attained. How interesting would it be to obtain
the name of his master in the knowledge of making instru-
ments ! No clue whatever remains by which we could arrive at
a satisfactory conclusion on this point. That he was an enthu-
siast in his art is certain, and also that he was aware to some



extent that he possessed talent of no mean description. This
is evidenced by the fact that many of his instruments are
branded with the letters B. B. in several places, as though he
felt that sooner or later his works would be highly esteemed
and would survive base imitations, and that by carefully brand-
ing them he might prevent any doubt as to their author. Many
of his best instruments are found to have no brand : it would
seem, therefore, that he did not so mark them for some time.
He appears to have early formed an attachment to Nicholas
Amati, and laboured unceasingly in imitation of him, until he
copied him with an exactness difficult to surpass. Now that
time has mellowed his best works, they might pass as original
Amatis with those not perfectly versed in the characteristics of
the latter. Many German makers excelled as copyists of Amati,
among others Schonger, of Erfurt, and Massert ; but these
makers failed in their varnish, whereas Banks was most happy
in this particular, both as regards colour and quality. If his
varnish be closely examined, its purity and richness of colour
is readily seen. It has all the characteristics of fine Italian
varnish, being beautifully transparent, mellow, and rich in its
varieties of tints. It must be distinctly understood that these
remarks apply only to the very finest works of this maker, there
being many specimens which bear the label of Banks in the
framing of which he probably took but a small share, leaving
the chief part to be done by his son and others. Banks cannot
be considered as having been successful in the use of his
varnish on the bellies of his instruments, as he has allowed
it to clog the fibre, a blemish which affects the appearance
very much, and has been the means of casting discredit on
the varnish among those unacquainted with the real cause.
The modelling is executed with skill, thicknesses being
carefully arranged throughout. Fortunately, too, for his in-
struments, sufficient wood has been left in them to enable
time to exert its beneficial effects, a desideratum overlooked
by many makers of good repute. The only feature of his
work, which can be considered as wanting in merit is the
scroll, which is somewhat cramped, and fails to convey the
meaning intended, viz., the following of Amati ; but as this
is a point having reference to appearance, and, therefore,
solely affecting the connoisseur, it may be passed over lightly,
and the more so when we consider that Banks was not the
only clever workman that has failed in head cutting. He made
Violins, Tenors, and Violoncellos, all excellent ; but the latter
have the preference. His large Violoncellos are the best ;
those of the smaller pattern are equally well made, but
lack depth of tone. The red-varnished instruments are the

BANKS, Benjamin, son of the above, born in September,
1754 ; died, January, 1820. Worked many years with his father


at Salisbury, afterwards removed to London, and lived at 30,
Sherrard Street, Golden Square.

BANKS, James. Brother of the above. For some years

carried on the business of his father at Salisbury, in conjunction

\\itli his brother Henry. They ulti-

james and Henry Banks, mately sold the business and removed

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Online LibraryGeorge HartThe violin : its famous makers and their imitators → online text (page 10 of 21)