Sunday, July 24, 2011

Comparing Two Stradivarius Violins - The 'Lady Blunt' and the 'Messiah'.

Written by Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins

On June 10, 2011, the two finest Stradivarius violins in the world were displayed side by side at the Ashomolean Museum in Oxford, England. The Ashmolean is home to the most perfectly preserved Stradivarius in existence, the 'Messiah' of 1716. The Lady Blunt of 1721 would certainly be considered the next most perfect Stradivarius next to the 'Messiah'. The strange difference is that it is almost universally accepted that the 'Lady Blunt' is a Stradivarius. Not so with the 'Messiah'.

'The Messiah' on display at the Ashmolean Museum

© Pruneau / Wikimedia Commons
'Lady Blunt' Stradivarius

Tarisio Auctions. Violachick68 at English Wikipedia

The Messiah Stradivarius has an interesting history. Made in 1716, the 'Messiah' violin remained unused in the Stradivarius workshop until the death of Antonius Stradivarius in 1737. Still unused and unplayed, the 'Messiah' violin was sold by Antonius’ son Paolo to Count Cozio di Salabue in 1775. Luigi Tarisio purchased the Messiah Stradivarius violin from Count Cozio in 1827. Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume of Paris purchased the Messiah Stradivarius violin, and the rest of Tarisio’s collection, upon Tarisio’s death in 1854. Eventually the Messiah Stradivarius made its way to the Hill shop of London and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England. For most of its life, the 'Messiah' has remained unplayed! 

Since it was not sold by Stradivarius nor played in his lifetime, and not played by any of the other owners, it is perfectly preserved. Many critics have argued that it is too perfectly preserved. That is, it is so perfect that it cannot be a Stradivarius. One of the more common theories is that it is actually a very perfectly made copy of a Stradivarius, probably made by Vuillaume and his workshop. 

The 'Lady Blunt' is on the bottom, the 'Messiah' is in the middle, the 'Hellier' on top.
Bringing two Stradivarius violins side by side allowed for great comparative observation and photographic documentation.
The 'Lady Blunt is on the left, the 'Messiah' on the right.

The conclusion? They are very similar instruments. If an expert would accept the 'Lady Blunt' as a Stradivarius (an almost universal truth!) then any reasonable expert would have to accept the 'Messiah" as a Stradivarius as well. 

We blogged about the 'Lady Blunt' previously. There are more pictures there as well. 

It might be heresy to preservationists, but I argue that all violins, even the 'Messiah' and the 'Lady Blunt,' should be played. They were made to be musical instruments, not objets d'art! When they are not played, they are more than half dead. Play them!
The 'Messiah is on the left, the 'Lady Blunt' on the right.
Many thanks to the Ashmolean Museum and Tarisio Auctions for making the display possible!

We have two violins modeled after the 'Lady Blunt' Stradivarius - Fein 'Lady Blunt' Stradivarius model and the Cremone DIVA Violin. We also have the A. Fein Patrizio Stradivari Violin which has features of both the 'Messiah' and 'Lady Blunt'.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed. Playing them helps improve the sound.