Stradivari Violin, the "Ole Bull"

Description (Brief)
This violin was made by Antonio Stradivari in Cremona, Italy in 1687. This violin is named after its 19th century owner, Ole Bull (1810-1880), a celebrated violinist and seminal figure in Norwegian music. The violin is made of a one-piece table of spruce with even medium fine grain broadening toward the treble side, one-piece back of maple with a beautiful broad descending figure slanting from treble to bass side, ribs of similar maple, with a modern maple neck terminating in the original pegbox and scroll of similar maple, and a golden brown varnish.
This violin is named after its 19th century owner, Ole Bull (1810-1880), a celebrated violinist and seminal figure in Norwegian music. After his early years in his home town of Bergen, Ole Bull's reputation secured him concerts throughout Europe. His technical facility led Schumann to regard him as at least Paganini's equal, and with his enormous personality, Ole Bull dazzled his audiences. Americans were particular smitten by his performance tours, first in 1843 and again in the 1850s. A democrat and Romantic adventurer, he became involved in the creation of an utopian New Norway in Potter County, Pennsylvania, in a town to be named Oleana. However, in 1853, after just one year, the project collapsed. He continued to perform with undiminished success, and spent winters in America and summers in Norway for last ten years of his life.
The Ole Bull violin is part of the Axelrod Quartet of Decorated Instruments by Antonio Stradivari, consisting of the "Ole Bull," 1687; the "Greffuhle" violin, c.1700; the "Axelrod" viola, 1695; the "Marylebone" cello, 1688. Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod's association with the Smithsonian Insitution began with a collaboration in 1955 with Curator of Fishes, Dr. Leonard P. Schultz, with whom he co-authored the Handbook of Tropical Aquarium Fishes. That association expanded over the years and, since 1986, includes continuous support of the Smithsonian's musical intrument collections. In 1987 Dr. Axelrod was awarded the Founder's Medal, the highest honor given by the Smithsonian's prestigious James Smithson Society.
Object Name
Date made
Stradivari, Antonio
Physical Description
spruce (table material)
maple (back material)
Place Made
Italia: Lombardia, Cremona
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Music & Musical Instruments
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Musical Instruments
Musical Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
The Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod Stradivarius Quartet
Related Publication
Luigi Boccherini. Boccherini: String Quintets, op.11, Nos. 4-6
Friedrich Dotzauer. Dotzauer: Quintet in D Minor, Op. 134; Six Pieces for 3 Violoncelli, Op. 104; Three Etudes for Violoncello Solo; Quartet for Violoncello Obbligato, 2 Violins, and Viola, Op. 64
Auguste Franchomme & Frédéric Chopin. Franchomme & Chopin: Grand Duo Concertant; Caprices Op. 7, Nos. 2, 4, & 7; Two Nocturnes; Grande Valse, Op. 34.
Felix Mendelssohn and Neils Gade. Mendelssohn & Gade: String Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 20; String Octet in F Major, Op. 17.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: The Complete String Quartets
Georges Onslow. Georges Onslow: String Quintets Opp. 38, 39 & 40.
Shinichi Yokoyama. The Decorated Instruments of Antonio Stradivari
Schubert, Franz. Franz Schubert: Quintet in C Major D. 956, Rondo in A Major D. 438
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