French Violin

French Violin

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This violin was made in Mirecourt, France around 1880. This instrument, with shaded varnish to imitate age and wear, is based on a model of violins by Joseph Guarneri “Del Jesu.” It is described in Foote's 1882 catalog as “No. 5928 Copy of Guarnerius, extra fine quality, beautiful oil varnish, plain ebony trimmings $22.00.” Four Guarneri models are listed in the catalog in the French violin group, ranging in price from $10.00 to $35.00 each. This violin is the next to the most expensive.

Many large and oversized violins like this (with 14¼ inch body length) were made in Mirecourt. A second Smithsonian example is catalog #72846. These two instruments have similar archings and outlines, both have pearwood purfling, and are listed in the Foote catalog at the same price and “extra fine quality” under French copies of old masters. The second instrument, with a different design of f-holes, is identified as a copy of Stradivarius.

This violin has a printed reproduction Guarneri label and is made of a two-piece table of spruce, two-piece back of maple with even, medium-fine ascending figure, ribs of moderately figured maple, neck, pegbox and scroll of faintly figured maple, and a yellow-brown varnish.

Currently not on view
Object Name
Date made
Place Made
France: Grand Est, Mirecourt
Physical Description
spruce (table material)
maple (back material)
overall: 23 3/4 in x 7 1/4 in x 3 1/2 in; 60.325 cm x 18.415 cm x 8.89 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of J. Howard Foote
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Musical Instruments
Music & Musical Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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