Violin thumbnail 1
Violin thumbnail 2
+18
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Europe 1600-1815, Room 5, The Friends of the V&A Gallery

This object consists of 2 parts, some of which may be located elsewhere.

Violin

1699 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) of Cremona is widely regarded as the greatest violin maker of all time. His reputation rests on the unparalleled quality of the workmanship and design of his instruments as much as the legendary varnish, made according to a long-lost secret recipe (unfortunately, the varnish on this instrument is not original). Stradivari's finest examples date from about 1699, when this violin was made, until about 1720. As well as making violins, Stradivari also made cellos, guitars and mandolins. From about 1660, the violin began to replace higher pitched viols, because it was easier to produce the brisk sounds demanded by the musical fashions of the day.


Object details

Categories
Object type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Violin
  • Key
Materials and techniques
Varnished sycamore back and varnished pine soundboard with purfled (bodered) edges; ebony tailpiece and tuning pegs
Brief description
Violin by Antionio Stradivari. Cremona, 1699
Physical description
Belly of two pieces of pine with purfling of two lines black and one light; the varnish is not original. Back of two pieces of sycamore. The neck is later, following modern practice. The head is by Stradivari, though (according to W. Henley, Antonio Stradivari) from another violin.

Anthony Baines, Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria and Albert Museum - Part II: Non-keyboard instruments. (London, 1998), p. 16.

Dimensions
  • Total length: 59cm
  • Body length: 34cm
  • Depth: 3.5cm
  • Maximum width: 20.5cm
Marks and inscriptions
Antonius Stradiuarius Cremonensis/ Faciebat Anno 1699 [followed by a circle containing a cross and the initial AS] (Label; Latin; inside the body, at the back of the instrument; printed (the last three figures of 1699 in ink))
Gallery label
Violin 1699 During the 17th century violins grew in status and popularity. Rich-toned, expressive and versatile, they were both virtuoso solo instruments and the core of the new orchestras. Violins made by the Italian maker Antonio Stradivari are considered the finest ever produced. They are prized for their design, craftsmanship and tone. Italy (Cremona) By Antonio Stradivari Sycamore; replacement parts in pine and ebony Bequeathed by Mrs. B Mulgan(2015)
Credit line
Bequeathed by Mrs B. Mulgan
Object history
In 1886 Mrs Mary Cavan (1830/1-1891) of 8 Park Crescent, London, purchased the violin from Edward Withers, 'Violin, Violincello, & Bow Maker' of 22 and 22a Wardour Street, London. He took it for a second opinion to George Chanot, 'Violin, Violincello & Bow Maker' of 157 Wardour Street, and in his report of 14 April 1886 Chanot stated that 'The violin shown to me this day by Mr Edward Withers I recognise as a genuine Stradivarius. The Belly of the Instrument has been revarnished the head is a Genuine Stradivarius head but I do not believe that it belongs to the same Instrument.' Mr Withers wrote to Mrs Cavan on 14 April: 'I have shewn the "Strad" Violin to Mr. Chanot, & enclosed you will find his written Opinion, for which I paid One Guinea. I quite agree with what he states, that it is a genuine Stradivarius, the Belly of which has been re-varnished or touched up over the old varnish - the Head is a genuine "Strad" head but does not belong to the Body - the tone is excellent. The lowest price I can let you have it for is £[ . . . ( . . . Pounds.) please let me have your decision at once & oblige.' Mrs Caven was the mother of Beatrice Mulgan, who bequeathed the violin to the Museum.

A more recent opinion is that the head is of good quality and consistent with Stradivarius violins of the 1690s, although it is perhaps a little heavy for this particular instrument. The tips of the corners of the left-hand bouts had been replaced but those on the right hand are considered remarkably intact. The neck, fingerboard and tailpiece are now thought to be nineteenth-century replacements, and the tuning pegs may be early twentieth-century replacements.

Conservation and other treatments
Measured by Dr Peter Harvey and Dr J. Mather, 1985
X-Radiography (V&A) 2009
VIS and UVA examination by Brigitte Brandmair 2009
Treatment 2014 (V&A CNFR) including replacement of one string


Display history
Displayed in Gallery 40a (Musical Instruments) from before 1989 to 2010.
On loan to the Horniman Museum, London 2011-14
Exhibited in gallery 5 (Europe 1660-1815) from 2015
Summary
Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) of Cremona is widely regarded as the greatest violin maker of all time. His reputation rests on the unparalleled quality of the workmanship and design of his instruments as much as the legendary varnish, made according to a long-lost secret recipe (unfortunately, the varnish on this instrument is not original). Stradivari's finest examples date from about 1699, when this violin was made, until about 1720. As well as making violins, Stradivari also made cellos, guitars and mandolins. From about 1660, the violin began to replace higher pitched viols, because it was easier to produce the brisk sounds demanded by the musical fashions of the day.
Associated object
Bibliographic references
  • Peter Thornton, Musical Instruments as Works of Art. (London, H. M. S. 0., 1968; 1982 edn.), p. 22, fig. 27 and caption.
  • London, Victoria & Albert Museum: Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria & Albert Museum. Part II, Anthony Baines: Non-keyboard instruments (London, 1998), p. 14-16 Stradivari, whose crowning achievements in violin-making coincide historically with the great flourescence of the Italian school of virtuoso violin-playing led by Corelli, is today known by six hundred or more violins, one of which is the middle-period example shown here (3/1: Fig.17) [pp.14-15] 3/1 VIOLIN by A. Stradivari. Cremona 1699. Fig. 17. Label, printed: Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis / Faciebat Anno 1699 (the last three figures in ink), followed by a circle containing a cross and the initial AS. Belly of two pieces of pine, with purfling of two lines black and one light; the varnish is not original. Back of two pieces of sycamore. The neck is later, following modern practice. The head is by Stradivari, though (according to W. Henley, Antonio Stradivari) from another violin. Dimensions: Length total 59; belly 34.5. Depth 3.8. Width of bouts 16.7, 11. 20.5. String length 32.8. Museum No.: W. 104-1937. Stradivari, once thought to have been a pupil of Nicolo Amati, is now believed to have been apprenticed as a wood-carver in Cremona and to have turned to violin-making as a result of acquaintance with the Amati household. His early violins, from 1660 to 1684, follow Amati models. Thereafter his originality began strongly to assert itself, leading to the celebrated models with lower arching of the belly, and bolder, slightly enlarged upper and lower bouts, through which, combined with workmanship of unequalled order, he is considered to have brought the violin to its highest perfection. Bequeathed by Mrs. B. Mulgan. [p.16]
Collection
Accession number
W.104&B-1937

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Record createdFebruary 16, 2004
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