Antonio Monzino was a prolific force in the Milanese instrument trade of the early 20th century. Instruments with his label appear from an enormous number of sources from factory-made German instruments, some of them varnished in Milan all the way through to definitive examples by the master-craftsmen who he represented as an import and export business.
The label of this particular example is explicit in identifying it as coming from the ‘Scuola Cremonese di Riccardo Antoniazzi’ as a copy of a Stradivari model. In fact, it is the same Stradivari model that the Antoniazzis had followed in their work for Leandro Bisiach who made similar claims to the Cremonese tradition on his labels as well, and follows forward in the same tradition.
The label is signed by Antonio Monzino, but we doubt he ever made a violin in his life. Instead the accuracy of this particular Stradivari-derived model, executed with slightly less care than expected from the Bisiach workshop is distinctive for Gaetano and the brothers Riccardo and Romeo Antoniazzi.
To play, the violin has an enormous sound and clarity, definitely on the bolder end of the spectrum, but with tremendous versatility and a subtle depth of colour. A great confident violin with bags of Italian character.
Possibly the most famous violin by George Wulme Hudson, this example was exhibited at the exhibition of Four Centuries of Violin Making in the British Isles in 2000, and is published in the British Violin, and in Adam Whone’s book on Edward Withers Limited, 230 years of violin craft in Soho.
Hudson boasted of making ‘speculative’ instruments intended to deceive the trade, and this is one example. The general outline is that of Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu, giving some credence to an original-fake Andrea Guarneri label, but the arching is fuller than one might expect with soundholes that are too amorphous to place it as the hands of any one particular maker. The combination of a willow back and a deep red varnish give mixed messages from the Testores of Milan to Balastrieri or Camilli Mantua. The instrument is almost a masterpiece of deception, combining a variety of Italian influences to create an instrument that has the attraction of an 18th century Italian violin without exposing itself to direct comparison to any specific body of work. A stunning example of Hudson’s highest order of workmanship. Comparable to some of the best productions of the Voller brothers.
An outstanding violin by one of the leading makers of the German region of the late eighteenth-century. Martin Leopold Widhalm was the maker to the Nuremberg Court when he made this violin in 1789. The majority of Widhalm’s work comprises very fine interpretations of Jacob Stainer’s violins from the seventeenth-century, but this exceptional example combines Stainer’s modelling on the larger ‘Grand-Amati’ pattern of the Cremonese Golden Period. Similar marriages of design and form would happen in Venice, in particular amongst the violins of Peter Guarneri also producing particularly warm and playable instruments with a surprising capability and projection given their generous dimensions. An extraordinary violin, as much a pleasure to look at as it is to play.
Giovanni Paolo Maggini is one of the great makers of the Northern Italian Renaissance following after Gaspar da Salo in Brescia. Amongst his surviving violins this is amongst the most advanced, with many characteristics that would emerge again in the early eighteenth-century amongst the makers of the Cremonese golden period, directly inspiring some of Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu’s later works.
The violin has a standard stop length, meaning that there is very little practical difference between this example and most other violins, however the body is of Maggini’s ‘middle’ size, measuring 370mm long. The flatter arching gives the violin a dark sound, but it still plays like a violin, lacking the sheer depth of darkness that is normally associated with his more heavily arched violins. A violin with incredible projection and loudness, with complex tonal qualities. A truly compelling violin.
Detail of Maggini’s decorations inlaid in ebony purfling on the back of the violin.
Jack Lott numbers amongst the most famous of all nineteenth-century makers, and possibly the greatest faker of Cremonese instruments in history. His repertoire following Guarneri del Gesu is well known, but his attempts at copying Stradivari are much rarer. In this case, he has taken a violin from the early 1720s – perhaps the Lady Blunt of 1721 – as his prototype and imagined a perfect sixteen-inch viola design. Simply one of the most beautiful violas I have seen in a long time, with an easy response and exceptional resonance. A beauty.
Jack Lott’s dazzling interpretation of Stradivari’s varnish in very pure and fine preservation.
One of the finest violins by George Craske that I have seen in a long time, the overall design harks back to the later period of Stradivari’s long-pattern in the second half of the 1690s. However, mannerisms in the soundholes, and a more circular upper bout than is strictly Stradivarian hint strongly that he had seen Daniel Parker’s work. The violin was marked aside as ‘special’ by W.E. Hill & Sons more than a century ago. It still holds it’s own as one of the most impressive sounding instruments I have come across by this maker.
George Craske’s interpretation of Daniel Parker’s work, against an original Parker of 1705.
Paul Bailly was a pupil of Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume who travelled extensively through France, Great Britain and the United States. This early example is very typical Parisian work reflecting his training in one of the great workshops of his time. The model is strongly based on the fabled 1716 ‘Messiah’ and Bailly may have had a hand in some of the precise copies made of it in during his time with Vuillaume. However the outline is slightly narrowed recalling the more slender Stradivari violins of the 1690s. A phenomenal French violin and one of the best sounding examples that I have come across from a generally brilliant maker.
Before 1918 W.E.Hill & Sons made fewer bows, concentrating on production for sale from the Bond Street shop rather than wholesaling through the network of dealers that they nurtured in Britain and abroad. Things would change when William Retford arrived and reorganised the workshop. Bows of this early period are uniformly some of the best that the Hills ever produced, and grades of quality appear to have been an afterthought. ‘W.E.H&S’bows typically had plain frogs and single-strand black whalebone lapping providing a cosmetic impression of difference in quality, but the resulting bow is of extremely high quality. This example is made by Sidney Yeoman (marked with a single nick in the faceplate by the mortise) who began his life in the Hill workshop in 1885 along with the first cohort of craftsmen, and is typical of the early ‘W.E.H&S’standard. The strong dark round stick compares favourably with the better French bows of the period. The total weight, 59 grams.
This bow came from the estate of Kathleen Parlow, “Canada’s Violinist” and pupil of Leopold Auer although the provenance is sadly only by word of mouth. Made around the 1860s, the rounded back of the frog features strongly in James Tubbs’ work of the same period and is some evidence that the two makers were following one and other. Nevertheless, the slightly enclosed throat of the frog is more in keeping with Thomas Tubbs and the eccentric head with only an ebony tip has the familiar proportions of Thomas’s work. A very supple octagonal stick, in typical Thomas Tubbs style. Weight, 59 grams no maker’s stamp visible.
A bow that underlines the continual experimentation of the Dodd family through the nineteenth-century. The swept back head of the stick is very characteristic of both James Dodd moving towards the standards to which Panormo bows were made. The narrow ebony band in the adjuster is original and is also an unusual feature that occurs in Panormo and Dodd bows. Dodd was clearly guided by his own design process, leading to the eccentric head of the bow, but the heft of the stick, terminating in quite an obtuse end, and the general proportions of the frog suggest a strong interest or influence in Etienne Pajeot’s work over the channel in Mirecourt. The round stick has very firm and strong playing qualities, overall weight 59 grams.