A 16 inch Anglo-French viola by Paul Bailly, London circa 1890

Paul Bailly made this viola around 1890 during one of his short visits to London, where he worked on Wardour Street amongst the hive of violin dealers and makers, but established his own workshop in Surrey Street in Battersea. The instrument is a departure from his routine making, and gives a first impression of being an interpretation of Guarneri del Gesu’s work in the form of a viola. With a little more considered view, it is actually a very refined Brescian model adopting much of the characteristic and style of the highly refined Maggini-inspired work of Giovanni Baptista Rogeri. Whether or not either maker made a perfect 16inch viola or not is quite another matter.

The resulting instrument, made in London by a French pupil of J.B. Vuillaume rather unexpectedly prefigures some of the better Italian work of the early twentieth century. It is easy to make (albeit coincidental comparisons) with Neapolitan makers such as Alfredo Contino in the overall concept and appearance of the viola.

Strung with Evah Pirazzi strings, the viola is incredibly strong and vibrant in sound. An extremely versatile instrument with plenty of character.