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Magnificent and highly important violin for sale at Bonhams
The violin has unbroken provenance from the time it appears in records towards the end of the 18th century and has passed through many distinguished hands. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- Bonhams is to sell a magnificent and highly important violin dating from the later part of the 17th century. It has long been ascribed to Giovanni Paolo Maggini, but recent research has indicated that it was made by one of his followers possibly the famous luthier from Cremona, Andrea Guarneri. The sale takes place in London on Monday 11 May.

The violin has unbroken provenance from the time it appears in records towards the end of the 18th century and has passed through many distinguished hands. Its first identified owner was the Florentine violinist and teacher Gabriele Piozzi who spent many years working in London. Among his pupils was the daughter of Hester Thrale, close friend and confident of Samuel Johnson. On her husband’s death in 1781, Hester married Piozzi much to Dr. Johnson disapproval and dismay. The Piozzis took their honeymoon in Italy and it may have been during this visit that Gabriele sold the violin to its next owner, the Genoese aristocrat, The Marquis Doria. It remained in the family’s instrument collection until the end of the 19th century.

Most recently it was played by the famous Belgian virtuoso Edith Volckaert and can be heard on several of her recordings. Born in 1949, Edith Volckaert was a child prodigy who died tragically young in 1992 at the age of 42.

Giovani Paolo Maggani (1589-1630/1) was a master luthier from Brescia in Lombardy and his instruments and those of his followers are valued for the richness and power of their tone. Tests to establish the age of the wood used in the manufacture of the violin suggest it dates from the 1670s or 1680s. Close similarities with instruments made by Guarneri around that time make it possible that he was the manufacturer though this cannot be established with certainty.

Bonhams Director of Music, Philip Scott, said, “This is a wonderful violin with a rich, luxurious tone. Throughout its life it has been owned and played by a succession of highly talented people not least, of course, Edith Volckaert who made some classic recordings with the instrument. “

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