The highlight of Ingles & Hayday’s June auction is a rare decorated Vuillaume violin that was commissioned by famous 19th-century musician Alexei Lvov and subsequently owned by Isaac Stern.
Watch a video of Alex Lomeiko playing the ‘Tsar Nicholas’ Vuillaume:
Lvov (1798–1870) was a key figure in Russian musical life in the 19th-century, as a violinist, composer and director of the Imperial Court Choir, as well as being aide to Tsar Nicholas I. He met and corresponded with the leading musicians of his time, including Mendelssohn, Clara and Robert Schumann, Glinka, Liszt and Berlioz. Lvov composed the Russian national anthem, ‘God save the Tsar’, which led the Tsar to order him to add the words to his crest. The anthem is now best known as the theme of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.
A talented maker in his own right, Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume (1798–1875) made excellent copies of Stradivari and Guarneri instruments and was well known in Europe. Lvov visited him in Paris in 1840 to commission this instrument, with the added decoration of his family crest, including the words ‘God save the Tsar’. The instrument is modelled on a Stradivari pattern from around 1708–9 and was antiqued by Vuillaume.
The addition of Lvov’s family crest and motto make the instrument extremely rare – Vuillaume made more than 3,000 instruments, with the assistance of various makers, but decorated few. These include three quartets, such as the ‘Count Sheremetev’, of which Ingles & Hayday sold the violin and cello in 2012, and a series of instruments named after saints, of which the ‘Evangelists’ Quartet (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), was sold by the auction house in 2016.
Tim Ingles, a Director of Ingles & Hayday, said: ‘Vuillaume was arguably the greatest copyist of the 19th century and one of the two finest French violin makers of all time. Today his work is more sought after than ever. As well as being a gifted maker he was also a shrewd businessman, exploiting the vogue for Stradivari and Guarneri copies that was spawned by the arrival of Viotti and Paganini on the concert scene. This violin appears to be based on Stradivari’s model of around 1708-9. The stunning one-piece back calls to mind some of Stradivari’s great violins of 1709 and 1710, notably the ‘Viotti; Marie Hall’. The decorated and named instruments are considered Vuillaume’s best work. The violin is extremely well preserved, despite having been played by numerous soloists during its lifetime. The combination of rarity, history and preservation makes it a very special Vuillaume.’
In other lots, the June sale includes a 1914 Enrico Rocca violin and 1910 Eugène Sartory bow from the collection of Aaron Rosand, one of the last violinists of the golden age, who died in 2019. Both are fine examples of their respective makers’ work and are exceptionally well preserved.
There is also a collection of cello bows that belonged to Martin Lovett, cellist of the legendary Amadeus Quartet, who died in 2020. This selection includes a silver-mounted bow by Georges Frédéric Schwartz and a gold-mounted bow attributed to François Tourte.