It is difficult to overstate the importance of John Joseph Merlin a true maverick genius of the eighteenth century: His automatons at his Mechanical Museum inspired the schoolboy Charles Babbage to invent the earliest computer, whilst he is perhaps as…
An Extraordinary Violin by Joseph Merlin, London.
A very early and rare French seventeenth-century viola approximating the Haute-Contre size found in orchestras of the seventeenth century. The outline, general form and varnish are strikingly simiar to a bass violin by Wilhelm Azan in the Musee de la Musique, Paris, and the partly illegible label gives a clear date for 1668, supported by dendrochronology.
A 16-inch viola, circle of Wilhelm Azan, Aix-en-Provence, 1668
Rüdolf Hös was born to an important family of instrument makers in Füssen in 1640, but was sent away to apprentice in Rome sometime around 1663. His application for citizenship of the city of Munich states that he spent 19 years in Italy, working in Bologna and Venice before his return to Germany and his appointment as instrument maker at the Ducal Court in Munich.
A 17-inch viola by Rüdolf Hös, Munich circa 1685
To my mind, Shem Mackey probably the most convincing of all modern makers of the viola da gamba, and I can’t help but feel that in a hundred years his well-played instruments will become hard to tell apart from the…
A fine contemporary English bass viol
This viola d’amore is copied from a very fine example in the Victoria and Albert Museum, made by Jean Nicolas Lambert (and sold by his widow in 1772), one of the most outstanding Parisian makers of his day. Jonathan’s instrument is typical of the very high standards of workmanship and acute observational skills that I have come to expect in his work. Quite simply, it is the finest viola d’amore by a contemporary maker that I have seen in many years.
A fine contemporary viola d'amore by Jonathan Hill