Reale Violin

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Description (Brief)
This violin was made by Nicola Reale in Washington, DC in 1939. Nicola Reale was born November 23, 1886 in Viggiano, Italy (about 85 miles southeast of Naples), and presumably received musical training in this region. Immigrating to the United States, he was established in Washington DC in 1911 as a violin teacher and musician, his main occupation until retirement in the 1970s.
Nicola Reale was also a self-taught violin maker, and he is recorded as a Civil Works preparator of musical instruments at the Smithsonian Institution from December, 1933 through April, 1940. In addition to undertaking repairs of museum instruments, he designed and constructed this violin in the Anthropological Laboratory, in 1939, under a Smithsonian Institution Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.) project. Apart from his Smithsonian employment, Nicola pursued an active performing career, and continued to make new instruments. The Washington Post newspaper account of his death on January 12, 1974 includes a picture of Nicola Reale in 1957 with Richard Nixon, presenting a violin he made expressly for the then Vice-President of the United States. Another violin is cited as one in the possession of the museum at La Scala in Milan, Italy.
This violin is made of a two-piece table of sitka spruce, two-piece back of slab-cut American maple with irregular, medium, horizontal figure, ribs, neck, pegbox and scroll of similar maple, and a transparent reddish-brown varnish.
Currently not on view
Date made
Reale, Nicola
Place Made
United States: District of Columbia, Washington
Physical Description
spruce (table material)
maple (back material)
overall: 23 1/2 in x 7 1/4 in x 3 1/2 in; 59.69 cm x 18.415 cm x 8.89 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Musical Instruments
Music & Musical Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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