Sunday, July 31, 2011

Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume. Luthier, Bow Maker & Dealer Extraordinaire

By Fein Violin Staff

Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume is an extremely important figure in the world of violins. Vuillaume had a shop in Paris from 1822 until his death in 1875. He was admired by and friends with Paganini, Ole Bull, and a host of other great soloists.

Label of an 1841 Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume cello

He was three steps removed from Stradivarius' workshop. After Antonius Stradivarius died, his entire workshop and remaining instruments were purchased by Count Cozio. Luigi Tarisio, an itinerant violin dealer purchased many instruments from Count Cozio and brought them to Paris. Vuillaume purchased many Stradivarius instruments from Tarisio. When Tarisio died, Vuillaume traveled directly to Italy to purchase his remaining collection of Stradivarius instruments. And other Cremonese instruments as well. Guaneris, Amatis, Bergonzis, Ruggieris, Rogeris and many more. Just about every Stradivarius and Guarnerius del Gesu passed through Vuillaume's shop at some point.
J.B.Vuillaume photo 1860 Moulin Workshop.jpg
Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume

Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume Cello, 1841
He was also a great violinmaker. I had the pleasure to work on the beautiful 1841 J.B. Vuillaume cello that Robert DeMaine plays. Truly one of the best sounding cellos I have ever heard. Having a very talented player that matches the instrument perfectly helps quite a bit also.

Vuillaume had a very busy shop. He was working on instruments, doing repairs, buying and selling instruments, and schmoozing the elite of the string world. Did he huddle over a work bench knocking out instruments from start to finish by his own hand? Not quite. In the tradition of French violin shops he had a large number of workers, from apprentices to master craftsmen. Some of the violin makers that worked with J.B. Vuillaume are Paul Bailly, Telesphore-Amable Barbe', Charles Buthod, Auguste Darte, Alexandre Delanoy, Jean Joseph Honore' Derazey, George Gemunder Sr., Joseph Louis Germain, Charles Adolphe Maucotel, Maurice Mermillot, Ludwig Neuner, Hippolyte Silvestre, Charles Simonin, Nicolas Vuillaume and Nicolas Francois Vuillaume. All of these makers' instruments that were made in the Vuillaume shop (or made for him) bear J.B. Vuillaume's label. They are often numbered on the inside as well.

File:Violin Vuillaume.jpg
A copy of a Guarneri violin made by Vauillaume

image by Frinck

And that was just the violin makers!

Vuillaume knew that without good bows, even the best of instruments would be plucked. Vuillaume brought into his workshop the best of the French bow makers, including Jean-Pierre-Marie Persoit, Dominique Peccatte, Jean-Joseph Fonclause, Nicolas Maline, Joseph Henry, Pierre Simon, Francois Peccatte, Nicolas Maire, Francois-Nicolas Voirin, Charles Peccatte, Jean-Joseph Martin, Charles-Claude Husson and Prosper Colas. All of these makers' bows that were made in the Vuillaume shop (or made for him) were stamped "VUILLAUME".

Bows from the shop of  Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, stamped "VUILLAUME"

That's a lot of names! Vuillaume was quite an exacting artiste and foreman. Just about everything the Vuillaume shop produced is outstanding in quality. But they are not the romanticized "one offs" of violin and bow maker legend. Many hands produced the instruments and bows with Vuillaume's name on them.

If you're wondering how much a certified, genuine Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume violin in good condition would be worth - $150,000 to more than $250,000 would not be unusual. Cellos would be substantially more. Vuillaume bows are highly valued as well. For bows, depending on how fancy the fittings, as well as certification and condition, the range would be anywhere from $15,000 to more than $80,000.

If you think you have found a real J.B. Vuillaume violin or bow, the answer is probably not. But if you need a definitive answer, I can do an appraisal for you in my shop or online.

An early J.B. Vuillaume violin, made in Paris circa 1828
Violin by J.B. Vuillaume, made in Paris circa 1855

Need more pictures? Who doesn't? - Vuillaume Cello, 1841


  1. I bought my violin a few years ago off a violin dealer who found the violin in france... i fell in love with it, the sound it produces is absolutely beautiful! the label inside it says Jean Baptiste Vuillaume a Paris 3, rue Demours - Ternes.

    Everyone always comments on this violin and out of curiosity i decided to look it up on the internet. is it possible that mine could b a genuine?

  2. Hi Michelle,
    How great that you found a violin that you love so much! It's impossible to say without seeing an instrument, but it sounds like you really should have someone do an appraisal for you! If it is, it will set your mind at ease, and you will be able to make sure it is insured for its proper value!

  3. Hello Andrew, Love the images! Would love them even better when one could make them larger. Nevertheless, just for interests sake I own a sister violin to your 1855 (or thereabouts example). Ergo - it was really fascinating to see the images of that violin your posting. Kindest Regards, Michael