Jean Baptiste Vuillaume was the single most influential personality in the violin world of the 19th century. A prolific maker, inventor, connoisseur and dealer, he established Paris as the centre of the violin trade, which it remained until after his death.
Vuillaume moved to Paris in 1818 and trained with François Chanot and Lété before establishing his own business in the rue Croix des Petits Champs in 1827. He remained there until 1858, when he moved to the rue Demours at Les Ternes. During his career he employed many of the most skilled violin and bow makers of his day, including Nestor Audinot, Charles Maucotel, Hippolyte Silvestre, Honoré Derazey, the Peccatte brothers, Jean Persoit, Joseph Fonclause, Pierre Simon and François Voirin.
Vuillaume’s early instruments were very much in the mould of Lupot, but he soon began to developas a copyist, particularly of Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesù, and occasionally
of Maggini and Amati. His love of old instruments had a strong influence on his work. In 1838 he met Paganini, and subsequently made a number of copies of the ‘Cannon’ Guarneri del Gesù, as can be seen in the violin dated 1847 featured in this archive. In 1855 he famously acquired the ‘Messie’ Stradivari from Luigi Tarisio, and made many fine ‘Messie’ copies, such as the one from the year 1866.
Although Vuillaume boasted of his skills as a copyist, and allegedly tried to palm Paganini off with a copy of the ‘Cannon’, his instruments are not easily confused with the originals. In a career spanning over half a century, he and his workshop produced more than 3,000 instruments, and the fact that they exist in such great numbers makes them relatively easy to identify. In addition, the vast majority of them are labelled, branded, numbered and signed as Vuillaume’s work.
12 May 2021 - Todes, Ariane
Alexei Lvov, the violinist who commissioned the Tsar Nicholas from Vuillaume in 1840, described himself as a dilettante, but he was a key figure in 19th-century Russian musical life, as Ariane Todes discovers
15 June 2020
Introduction In the autumn of 2012, which also turned out to be the autumn of my career at Sotheby’s, I had the privilege of handling some of the finest instruments by J.B. Vuillaume, and staging an exhibition of his work... Read more
01 March 2019 - Oxley, Peter
As opposed to the W.E.Hill & Sons workshop where, from the beginning of the 20th Century, W.C. Retford introduced the standardised ‘Hill Bow’ by employing the rigorous use of templates, J.B. Vuillaume allowed all of the bow makers in... Read more
17 March 2016
An unparalleled quartet of instruments made by Jean Baptiste Vuillaume in Paris in 1863 was sold in our March 2016 auction for a world record £960,000.
16 March 2016
ARTICLE EXTRACT A quartet of instruments made by the luthier Jean Baptiste Vuillaume sold at auction for £960,000 on 15 March. The two violins, viola and cello are named after the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, with corresponding carved... Read more
16 March 2016
ARTICLE EXTRACT Between 1863 and 1872, Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume created these four instruments, each with an intricate carving of one of the four Evangelists, St Matthew, St Mark, St Luke and St John. He also created at least five others, bearing... Read more
16 March 2016
ARTICLE EXTRACT Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume’s ‘Evangelists’ quartet of instruments has sold for £960,000 ($1.35m). The two violins, viola and cello – named after the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, with corresponding carved tailpieces depicting each saint – were bought through... Read more
Tim Ingles and Paul Hayday will offer an initial evaluation of the authenticity and value of your instrument or bow. At this stage, the assessment is free and without obligation. In the first instance, we suggest submitting good-quality images to us, preferably by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by completing the valuation form.Read more