Violin by John Johnson, London, 1757

Violin by John Johnson, London, 1757

About John Johnson

John Johnson was born in 1719 and worked in Cheapside, east of St Paul´s. The area is now covered in glass office buildings but in the mid-18th century it was home to a number of London violin makers, including Johnson, Nathaniel Cross and John Barrett. Johnson served his apprenticeship with the London maker Daniel Wright from 1732 and inherited the business in 1740. Interestingly, his shop continued to trade after his death, managed by his widow Ruth.

Johnson´s work is typical of London making of the period: his violins are based on a Stainer model with full arching. His workmanship sets him apart as one of the finer makers of the period.

About the violin

The violin was made at the Harp and Crown in Cheapside in 1757. It is modelled after the instruments of Jacob Stainer, whose instruments were particularly fashionable in England at this time. The characteristics of this model include arching which is initially steep at the edges before plateauing across the middle, and f-holes which are a slightly stylised interpretation of Stainer.

The violin has a two piece back of narrow-flamed maple, descending slightly from the centre joint. The ribs and scroll are of similar wood. The front is two pieces of very narrow-grained spruce. The varnish is the golden brown colour typical of Johnson´s work, laid over a lighter golden ground.

The violin has a length of back of 358 mm.

How does it sound?

So often, instruments modelled after Stainer are thought of as sweet but not powerful. This is a stereotype that I find very rarely rings true: this violin is yet another Stainer model powerhouse! The violin has an eagerness to play and a youthful zest which belies its great age.


The violin is in an extremely fine restored state, the work having been undertaken by the Hill workshop. A full condition report accompanies its sale.


The violin has a Hill certificate from 1976.

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