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Violin Makers

Apparut, Georges

Born at Juraincourt (near Mirecourt), 1877. Son and pupil of Leon Apparut. Worked at the Ateliers of Blanchard at Lyons, 1896-1899, and with Mougenot at Brussels, 1900-1903. Succeeded to the business of Charotte at Mirecourt, 1925. Obtained gold medals at Nancy, Brussels, Metz, Gand and Paris. Diplomas of honour at other Exhibitions. Interesting and high finished productions of thoroughly good art.

Established considerable fame in France, Belgium and America, soloists having been a powerful influence in promoting his name. Several French virtuosi acknowledge the brilliant tone which enables them to produce a superb sound and give delight to the audience.

Blanchard, Paul

In 1876 Paul Blanchard set up his own workshop in Lyon, shortly after he became the appointed maker to the Lyon Music Conservatory. Before 1885, Paul Blanchard’s work was influenced by the style of Silvestre. After this date, his work changed and become more personal with flatter arching and thicker purfling, the ribs became thicker and he started to make his own beautiful transparent red varnish. Some of Paul Blanchard's violins were coated with a varnish displaying some areas where the varnish had been shaded away to give a more antique look to the instrument.

Besides the master instruments made by Paul Blanchard one can find very good quality workshop violins that are unstamped and generally signed on the inside table, in addition there was the Lugdunum model which carried a very decorative label with a representation of the Lyons City Arms, and Lugdunun inscribed in square lettering. Around 1200 instruments of high and average quality were made in Paul Blanchard’s workshop, mostly Stradivarius and Guarnerius models with some Amati's. Paul Blanchard was very much inspired by his time spent with J.B.Vuillaume with whom he was in partnership, it was during this time that he developed the Lugdunum workshop model. This model along with the label was continued through the beginning of the twentieth century by the Marc Laberte workshops.

Caressa & Français

Successors to the business of Gustave Bernardel, 1901, now situated in the rue de Madrid, Paris. Felix Albert Caressa, born at Nice, 1866. Pupil of Gand and Bernardel. Decorated Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, 1910. Officer of the Academy, 1922. Died 1930.

Violins modelled after the Lupot style, many bearing the label of Gustave Bernardel. Henri Français. born at Mirecourt, 1861. Pupil of Darte, Gand and Bernardel. Officer of Public Instruction, 1911. Producers of all classes of stringed instruments which do justice to the traditions of their predecessors - Lupot, Gand and Bernardel. Makers to the Conservatoire, Opera orchestras, etc. Medals gained at St. Louis Exhibition, Liege 1905, etc. Members of the Jury at the Milan Exhibition, 1906, London 1908, Brussels 1910, and Turin 1911. Experts at the Civil Tribunal of the Seine.

Collin-Mezin

An excellent luthier and an Officier de Academie des Beaux-Arts. He collaborated with his father Charles Jean Baptiste Collin-Mezin, a famous Parisian luthier. When his father died in 1923, the family's Mirecourt workshop was taken over by Charles, Jr., who moved from his father's Paris workshop to Mirecourt in 1925.

He also spent some time working in the United States. All his labels say Paris, and display his father's name. He seems to have continued to produce instruments as if by his father for many years after his fathers death. His violins display high quality workmanship in the tradition of his father. Later in life he constructed some instruments of more original character, for example the Victorieux model. His varnish is thick, with an Italian appearance.

Instruments from the Collin-Mezin workshops whether by himself or by assistants represent excellent value for money and are always good investments, they have increased in value by over 50% during the last five years. He used numerous variations of label, at least eight different formats, three of which are displayed below. The earlier examples often have the signature inside on the lower back but not all of his instruments were signed. The signature is often a stamp (facsimile), sometimes in ink and sometimes across the label (mainly the Victorieux models). The tonal qualities of these instruments are always well balanced, they have a vibrancy that is not at all harsh, rather it has a sweetness and with depth to the bass.

Dieudonné, Amédée Dominique

Born on 6th August 1890 in the great violin making town of Mirecourt. His father was Albert Dieudonné, himself a luthier and his mother was Cécile Elisabethe Marthe Benoit, daughter of Dominique Benoit, one of the finest craftsmen in the area who specialised in making violin necks and was employed for some time by Nicolas Vuillaume. His early training was in the atelier of Gustave BAZIN and then, at the age of 19, he transferred to work with DARCHE in Brussels. He came to Paris for a few months which he spent with GERMAIN and then returned to Brussels.

He was mobilised during the First World War and, like so many men of his generation, he suffered subsequent ill health due to the use of poison gas. After briefly having a workshop in Lille, in August 1920 Dieudonné returned with his wife to set up an atelier in Mirecourt, on rue Georges Clemenceau. He stayed there for some 19 years until he moved to the rue Canon and then, after World War Two, to the Place Thierry. DIEUDONNÉ was one of the most respected and consistent craftsmen of his time and the violins created by him and under his supervision were sold to many great luthiers and suppliers.

They would often leave the choice of wood, varnish etc entirely to him or sometimes choose the finishing varnish. They would often insert their own label and sometimes even claimed the work as their own! So you may see the phrase ‘fini et vendu’ (finished and sold) or ‘choisi par’ (chosen by) on a label in a Dieudonné violin when the violin has eventually passed through the hands of other great makers. The list of those to whom he supplied reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of violin making: AUBRY, BLANCHI, MANGENOT, ENEL, HEL, DIDIER, MERCIOLLE, LORANGE, NADEGINI, CLAUDOT, MARISSAL, CHARDON etc. (it is a very long list) and he also made for the powerful American firm of Wurlitzer. 

There is a certain snobbery in some quarters about Dieudonné violins with other labels but these violins can be every bit as beautifully made as those with his own signature – it is the same maker, the same, atelier, the same outstanding craftsmanship. He was by no means working alone and personally trained and worked with many craftsmen who we now think of as established luthiers: René BAZIN, Pierre CLAUDOT, Jean EULRY, Eugène GUINOT, Eugène MAUCOTEL, Jean STRIEBIG, Jean THOMASSIN, Marcel VOIRIN, René MOREL, Paul SERDET, André CONOT (Lyons), Etienne VATELOT, Bernard MILLANT, René QUESNOIL – the list includes many more. A unique and outstanding maker, Amédée DIEUDONNÉ died on the 1st February 1960.

Mennesson, Emile

Born st Rheims 1842. Died there 1920. Worked in several ateliers at Paris. Established extensive premises at Mirecourt, 1876-1881. Associated with Martin and Joseph Guarini some years previously, ultimately purchased the trade-marks of that firm, and henceforth built his instruments under the pseudonym of Joseph Guarini.

Produced nearly 3,000 of these superior “commercial” instruments, and, for many years, their popularity out-distanced all competitors. Recipient of gold medals and “diplomas d’honneur” at European and American exhibitions. Modelling especially adhering to the Messie Strad. Early specimens with red varnish, later productions with yellow-red on amber ground. £20. Reputed to have been indefatigable in varnish experimenting. £65, 1960.

Laberte, Marc

Born at Mirecourt, 1880. Director of the expansive Laberte-Humbert Freres firm. Youth and activity, and a passionate desire to emulate and copy the Cremonese, acted as a spur to conquer the difficulties. Realisation of successful results (totally different from the several hazardous imitations of Mirecourt predecessors) necessitated the possession of valuable masterpieces. Spent two years assembling impeccable specimens of Stradivarius (1702), Guarnerius (1736), Amati (1650), Ruggerius (1690), Guadagnini (1755), Stainer, Gagliano, Testore and others.

Undertook the delicate procedure of temporary dissecting these characteristic specimens. Then came the question of choice of woods, so made it essential and indispensable to search for old material seasoned by nature and the open air, having such qualities as to avoid any artificial preparation to obtain resonant mellowness such as practised by some of his predecessors. Compounded a warm and transparent varnish, favourably comparing with the Cremonese. By persistent effort and astonishing conception he then brought out his imitative revelations wondrous replications of the original contours and varnishes, also a definite charm of variegated tonal qualities. Likewise built ’cellos from a Joseph Guarnerius (1713), certain specimens attracting the attention of French virtuosi.

Kaul, Paul

Born at Mirecourt, 1875. Apprenticed to Thibouville-lamy. Worked for Silvestre and Maucotel at Paris 1900-1905. Established at Nantes, 1907. Also lived for short periods at Ancemis, Hyeres and Cannes. Finally, at Paris, 1928.

Various models inspired by the Maggini, Amati, Stradivarius, Stainer and especially Guarnerius. All very artistically and scientifically constructed. Golden fawn to red brown shades of splendidly transparent varnish. Tonal quality endowed with that healthiness indissolubly united to future grand maturity. Also built violins on the Chenantais (see this name) principles.

Aubry, Joseph

Born at Mirecourt, 1873. Son of a guitar maker. Studied cabinet-making and wood-carving up to eighteenth year. Then served an apprenticeship in violin making, established his own premises at Mirecourt, and in 1921 gained the firstclass diploma at Paris for the perfect tonal sonority of his instruments. Also recipient of the ‘highest honours’ at the Metz Exposition, 1922. Removed to Le Havre, 1927.

In every instance, stringed instruments have each their ‘voice’, which permits us to distinguish them, one from the other. One classifies them according to the qualities of this ‘voice’, which is formed of infinitely varying elements, among which are strength and tone. Both of these depend on the general construction, and particularly on the graduation of the arching, and the skilful management of thicknessing, with a view of arriving at an appropriate resistance and suppleness, as a whole, giving the maximum of rendering.

The problem may appear simple, but in reality extremely complex, imbued and involved many passionate and indefatigable searchers in apparently never-ending experiments. Science has intervened at all times, without being able to give any definite formulae, such as it can do for other instruments. Success is only attained as a result of the harmonious blending previously mentioned, and the lack of one of these is sufficient to spoil the whole.

Up to the present day all attempts to improve on the models of the Cremonese have been made in vain, and have only further emphasised the perfection of those geniuses. Aubry, in researches, arrived at the conclusion that to successfully interfere with the principles imposed by those glorious builders was an impossibility. This afforded satisfaction to adhere most minutely to measurements of certain chefsd’oeuvre, leave nothing to chance, or indulged in any problematical innovations which almost invariably lead to futility.

In his workshops at Mirecourt we may picture him sitting there without assistants (as did some old masters) making instruments entirely with his own hands, giving every detail the benefit of a long experience, and trying with the greatest acumen to arrive at that tonal sonority which will satisfy the empirical demands of soloists and connoisseurs. Solo violins either of Stradivarian or Guarnerian (Joseph) modelling - priced at £60 (1927).

Drawing-room violins built after the model of an Andreas Guarnerius. Violas for quartet or orchestra - one of small dimensions, the other large - priced at £75. Tenors, tuned an octave below that of the violin - of unique tonal timbre - £80. ’Cellos of Stradivarian modelling - £l00. Magnificent designs, flawless workmanship, and oil varnish of warm transparency. Splendid tonal quality - sonorous richness united to delicacy, strength with sweetness, penetrating as silvery darts, and one that impels the animation of the bow.

Brugère, Charles Georges

Born at Mirecourt 1865. Son of Charles Joseph. Apprenticed to Etienne Drouin at Mirecourt 1878. Worked with Paul Blanchard at Lyons 1881. Also studied with Paul Bailly at Paris. Worked for Gand and Bernardel 1885-1892. Managed the business of Eugène Henry for three years.

Established own workshop 1895; employed three assistants. Retired from business 1920; went to live at Mirecourt but occasionally gave to the world other examples of his skill. Died 1930. Produced about 250 Stradivarius and Amati models - the former preponderating. Workmanship unquestionably neat and precise. Scroll and sound-holes finely suggestive of a maker who idolizes and accurately visualizes the chosen prototype. Wood always of the finest and prettiest. Oil varnish of various shades - principally orange-red but also yellow and yellow-brown.

Very powerful tone gradually ripening in quality. Exhibited a double quintet of instruments at Lyons 1894 - received the first silver medal. Created four double-basses with finely carved lion heads, and a marvellously equal tonal quality on the four strings.

Maucotel, Ernest

Born at Mirecourt, 1867. Apprenticed to Paul Bailly. Worked for his uncle at Moscow, 1885. Partner of H. C. Silvestre, 1900. Associated with Paul Deschamp (distinguished expert), 1922. Generally replicas of Seraphino, Montagnana, and Gofriller. Reddish-brown oil varnish.

 

Jombar, Paul

Born at Paris, 1868. Pupil of Audinot, 1882-1886. Worked for Gand and Bernardel. Established own workshop, 1892. Decorated “Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur”, 1901. Died 1949. A fine maker, who made many innovative improvements, but always with skill and sense.

Perfect workmanship. Elegant modelling. Compares favourably with the best French makers of the past. Splendid varnish. Beautifully clear tonal quality, and sufficiently powerful to give the possessor of one of these instruments every reason to be proud of his property.

Delivet, Auguste

Born at Mirecourt, 1861. Served apprenticeship in that town. Pupil of Victor Rombaux and Chardin. Worked five years in the Atelier of Silvestre, Paris. Opened own workshop in the rue de Paradis, Paris, 1892. later moved to the rue Richer. Awarded gold medals at Nantes, 1904; Liége, 1905 and 1906; and at other Exhibitions.

Maker and repairer to the Paris Conservatoire. Worked for a short while for Williams & Co., in Toronto in 1920. Died 1928. Very rich oil varnish of various shades. Tone quality remarkably mellow and very clear.

Schmitt, Lucian

Born at Julien-en-Genevois, 1892. Studied the violin at Geneva Conservatoire and carried off first prize for solo playing. Subsequently attacked with enthusiasm the constructive art and went to Mirecourt where he spent two years in the atelier of Mougenot-Jacquet-Gand, and was also initiated into bow making by Bazin.

Worked for Vidoudez at Geneva, and never ceased to express his gratitude for all he learnt in restoration from that very conscientious man. Employed by Lorange at Lyons, by Madame Bovis at Nice, and by Caressa and Français at Paris. Established at Grenoble, 1922. Resident at Meylan (near Grenoble), 1941.

Audinot, Nester Dominique

Born at Mirecourt, 1842. Son and pupil of Leopold. Worked with Sebastian Vuillaume at Paris, 1863-1868, and succeeded to the business 1875. Inherited a comfortable fortune by 1912. Died in 1920.Produced over 800 instruments. Magnificently strong in wood. Excellent modelling belonging to the several favourite types (the Guarnerian perhaps receiving preference).

Covered with an extremely brilliant red or dark honey coloured varnish, formulated after much experimenting. While momentarily won by a certain air of unusual grandioseness, a more careful scrutiny reveals a great individuality. He has done considerable honour to the craft - not a single instrument having a touch of carelessness - and his claim to some individuality cannot be controverted. As the years pass by the finely responsive orchestral tone will get better and better!

Lorange, Paul

Born at Mirecourt, 1873. Worked with Blanchard (Lyons), Gautié (Toulouse) and Mougenot (Brussels). Established at Lyons, 1899. Died 1920. Stradivarian, Guarnerian and Amatese modelling, the latter especially esteemed.

Woods very happily selected, acoustically fine as well as beautifully flamed. Reddish orange or cherry red shades of varnish, oily, thick of tender composition, applied uniformly or to imitate “wear”

Deblaye, Albert Joseph

Born at Bouzemont near Mirecourt, 1874. Worked at several Parisien ateliers, and at Toulouse with Gautier, 1897-1900. Established at Mirecourt, 1900. Became technical director of the Deblaye and Meunier Amalgamation, 1922. Died 1929.

Built violins of various modelling, graduated in excellence and price. Amati style (elegantly arched and red orange varnish); Lupot style (reddish-brown oil varnish shaded etc. to look old); Amati style (medium arching, one piece back, and red orange varnish); Guarnerius style (highly-flamed maple, and beautiful golden yellow varnish); Ceruti style (shaded varnish); Stradivarian style (very elegant outline, and dark red-brown varnish); “Deblaye soloist model” (varnished full in modern style); “Deblaye artist model” (gorgeously-fine orange tinted varnish); Italian style (superfine in every department).

Villaume, Gustave Eugène

Born at Mirecourt 1899.

Pupil of Mougenot and Jacquent Gand. Wood, workmanship and general appearance eminently qualify this maker as highly successful in Guarnerian modelling. Oil varnish of clear yellow to dark reddish-brown.

Chappuy, Nicolas Augustin

Born 1730. Worked at Mirecourt and Paris. Died 1784. Astonishingly large and rapid productivity. Violins bearing the name Chappuy, either branded or labelled, are comparatively innumerable - a phenomena giving rise to several writers’ unanimous opinions that there must have been two makers one named Nicolas, the other Augustin. We, however, rather think there was only the one individual - a maker whose output varied in merit from indifferent to first-class workmanship according to moods or to the wants of clients - a maker of astounding versatility and natural quickness.

Some models altogether inelegant, with stunted corners and broad waist. Others of more artistic outline (of long pattern) having a combination of Italian and French characteristics. Arching always flat and quite academical. General measurements - body length, 14-1/16 inches; upper bouts, 6-1/2; middle, 4-1/4; lower, 8-1/16. Scrolls sometimes large, often well carved, also as often rather too much scooped, and generally with small boss. Wings of sound-holes, at top and bottom, not so close to the curve as those generally associated with the neatest workmanship. Frequently used very inferior material - the one particularly outstanding drawback that has so often brought down the lash of criticism from experts. Occasionally there are specimens with straight and even-grained spruce and nicely flamed maple, and they are eagerly snapped up even at the rather excessive figure of £60 (1925).

Generally the table wood is tinged with imperfections very noticeable under the bridge and between the sound-holes and edges, and without straight - or width uniformity of fibre. Varying shades of spirit varnish - transparent yellow, orange yellow, brownish yellow (with too much brown), and reddish brown - often of very common appearance and hard looking. Best specimens have a strong tone of considerable brilliance but quite without sympathetic quality. Altogether superior viol d’amours and quintons, having splendidly carved fancy heads, and never betraying the lapses from his finer capabilities so unfortunately belonging to many of the violins. Also produced pochettes, now highly valued by collectors.

Derazey, Honoré

Full name: Jean Joseph Honoré. Born at Mirecourt, 1794. Died there 1883. Spent several years in various workshops at Paris. Ultimately established at Mirecourt. Gained Exhibition medals at Paris 1839, 1844 and 1855; also at London, 1862. Early instruments especially attractive in being substantially built and inspired by that of Stradivarius and others of the Italian school. Workmanship excellent. Scrolls always elegant. Sound-holes superb. Edges never very pronounced, and here again we see the essence of delicacy. Same deftness accentuates the squarishly designed corners.

Varnish (generally of an orange yellow shade) Some specimens have table wood of Carpathian pine - a material rather too brittle and strong in fibre to be ideal for tonal quality; grain (a perfectly straight one) often wider towards the sides. Generally of yery long Stradivarius pattern, very flat arching, and Maggini-like shoulders. Of remarkably powerful tone, though perhaps rather blatant, but certainly not hard - and its sonority is becoming mellower. Seldom labelled. H D branded inside on the back and within a circle.

Modelling altogether similar to that of the many Strad-Vuillaumes. Influence of J.B.Vuillaume also easily traced in the colour and style of applying the varnish - colour generally reddish or dark honey colour, applied and rubbed off here and there to give instruments an appearance of wear. Became enormously popular, particularly in England, and the name Derazey was on everybody’s lips. No finer commercial violins have ever come from Mirecourt, undoubtedly their finished workmanship influenced the many other makers in that town to emulate his achievements. The particular point of interest in these violins is artistic combination of the sound-holes with the waist curves; beautiful originality quite distinct from others of the Mirecourt school. Years after death, violins bearing his labels were poured into the trade, but these have been the productions successively of his son, then Mangenot, and finally Laberte-Magnié.