Violin by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, Paris, circa 1874

Violin by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, Paris, circa 1874

About Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume

Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume was the most important violin dealer of the 19th century. He was responsible for the sale of many great instruments, including Stradivari's 'le Messie´. 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.

Vuillaume was born in Mirecourt in 1798 and initially trained under his father, Claude-François Vuillaume. 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. Building on his success in other people´s workshops, Vuillaume set up his own business in 1827.

The Parisian workshop grew quickly, employing the very best luthiers and archetiers that France had to offer. All of these makers were producing 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 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!

As well as making instruments and running a superb workshop, Vuillaume´s other 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 violin was made between the years of 1874 and 1875. Made under Vuillaume´s direction, it was varnished after the master´s death in March 1875. The violin is modelled after Stradivari.

The violin has a two piece back of medium-flamed maple, descending from the centre joint. The ribs are of similar wood and the head is of plainer maple. The front is two pieces of medium-grained spruce and the varnish is a deep red-orange colour. The varnish was applied by a successor of Vuillaume.

The violin has a length of back of 355mm.

How does it sound?

Interestingly, this violin has the unusual combination of each string having its own distinct character whilst the overall impression is of an instrument that is even across the strings. This makes it very satisfying to play for the most demanding concerto repertoire. The violin has a very concentrated, focussed sound and speaks easily. It´s on the more powerful end of the Vuillaume violins we´ve come across and has an eager, exuberant character.


This violin is offered to the market in excellent condition.


This violin comes with the certificate of Charles Beare. Excitingly, this instrument was once the main playing violin of the Hungarian pedagogue Carl Flesch.

Further information

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