A fine and unusual baroque violin, Füssen, circa 1750

The Bavarian town of Füssen was a leading centre of instrument making from the mid-1400s onwards, with a guild of instrument makers formed in 1562. It’s importance declined in the early nineteenth century, but when Johan Anton Gedler made this violin it was still one of the most significant communities for violin making in Northern Europe. Various violins of this shape survive by a range of Füssen makers from throughout the century, and they invariably represent the highest standards of craftsmanship in German making of the period.

We can’t be certain of the motivations behind making these instruments, but the variation in design is meticulously worked out, and the production of these instruments is difficult and time-consuming by violin-making standards. My most plausible suggestion is that they were intended for opera and musical theatre productions that required an on-stage presence for musicians, since they are as relatively removed from ordinary violin design as theatrical dress is removed from every-day clothes. The ‘rusticated’ look to the instruments may also relate to the classical orders in architecture and in doing may also be evocative of the undercurrents in eighteenth-century music that developed in German-speaking lands from the antithetical nature of scordatura by Biber and his contemporaries, to the emergence of Sturm and Drang under Gluck, Haydn and Mozart from the 1760s.

The violin is in excellent condition having been recently and sympathetically restored back to a baroque state.