Violin by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, Paris, 1852

This violin has now sold.

Violin by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, Paris, 1852

About Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume

Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume was the most important violin dealer of the 19th century, handling many great instruments, such as Stradivari's 'le Messie' amongst others. In addition to his achievements as a dealer, Vuillaume was also a hugely talented maker and marketer of his instruments. His violins are considered to be amongst the greatest ever produced in France, perhaps surpassed in quality only by the instruments of Nicolas Lupot.

As with so many great men and women, Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume demonstrated genius in many areas of life. The first talent to bloom in the young J.B. Vuillaume was an exceptional facility in making stringed instruments. Some of the early part of his career was spent working for François Chanot, making cornerless violins. Whilst these curiosities aren't necessarily all that successful in their tone (and one can acquire such an instrument for a great deal less than his later violins), they are exquisitely made and fascinating to see.

Whilst Vuillaume's skill as a luthier was almost peerless in France at the time, it´s fair to say that he was at least equally skilled as a businessman. He quickly set up a dealership and workshop in Paris, employing the very best luthiers and archetiers that France had to offer. All of these instrument makers were making instruments to Vuillaume´s choice of models and ideas, and the instruments made in this workshop are considered greater than the sum of their parts: that is to say that none of the makers, fine as they were, managed to achieve such success making outside this workshop. To have recruited and then extracted such consistent work from such a diverse group of violin makers at the top of their game is remarkable! Vuillaume´s final great skill was that of marketing. This talent sometimes took Vuillaume away from honest trading, into the grey area and beyond! At the scrupulous end of things, he was an innovator, with new designs for the bow being tried and tested in his workshops. In the middle of the grey area is the maker Vuillaume invented, and then 'copied', the fictitious Gasparo Duiffopruggar. Finally, we move into downright dishonest and illegal behaviour. In this category we have the claims that his great, great grandfather worked with Stradivari, and the infamous time that he attempted to steal Paganini's violin!

About the violin

This is a fine and characteristic example of Vuillaume´s work. The violin was made in 1852 and is numbered 1,985. It is modelled after Stradivari.

The violin was made on an inside mould in the Cremonese style: Vuillaume made instruments on both an inside and outside mould and so it is particularly pleasing to see a Stradivari model where the construction is true to the original.

The violin has a two piece front of medium-grained spruce. The back is two pieces of highly figured, book-matched maple and the ribs and scroll are of similar wood. The varnish is a rich orange-brown and the violin has been antiqued in Vuillaume´s distinctive manner.

The length of back is 358mm.

How does it sound?

This violin has amazing power, wrapped up in a silky, sophisticated package! It´s the most responsive and flexible Vuillaume I have ever played, with a beautiful warmth to the lower strings and incredible projection across the whole instrument. It´s one of the easiest violins to play in the whole shop, giving the impression that the instrument is a duo partner rather than a musical tool. A brilliant instrument!


This violin is offered to the market in stunning original condition. The violin bears its original neck and the varnish remains unpolished.


The violin is signed internally by Vuillaume and it bears the number 1,985. It comes with a Hill certificate and receipt dated 1901 and a further certificate by Jean-Jacques Rampal will be issued upon sale.

More information

This violin has now sold, but you can view other violins in this price range or view other violins by this maker.