I Just Gotta Have It!

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Looks like leather but I don't think it is, just roughed up boxwood from the machining. I actually like it, it's a lot more tasty than the carved biblical scenes and acanthus leaves. The decoration was made specifically for this TP and fit to the rooftop shape. It could have been made by Henrik Kaston the man who made all the DG and Strad crests in NYC. The work is certainly top rate. I think it will fetch some major money. Someone might have to replace the ivory to travel with it though. Would love to know the provenance.

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Imagine my horror to see that this is English!!! I always thought it was other nations that had such dubious taste, not the beloved zenith of taste and decency, W.E. Hill & Sons...   Luckily I never exposed such prejudices in public, so I don't need to contemplate which hat I need to take a bite out of. ... (and technically if it is stamped England, it was intended to be shipped out to the US market).


Actually the height of bling is the fittings of Kreisler's 1734 del Gesu, which were on it when George Hart sold it in London, so this is moderate by comparison... (those of you who are observant will know its the wrong date - but I bet that's difficult to correct in diamonds!). Despite everything, they are rather disappointing when you see what they actually are. 


"The fittings of this violin are bueatiful indeed. On the tailpiece the initials of Guarnerius and the date 1737 appear in diamonds. The pegs and button are set with diamonds and rubies. The case alone of this prize is valued at £200."

Correspondence, edited by E. Polanski, London, 1902

"How it came into the possession of its present owner we will let him tell in his own words. Here is the story. " One day as I entered the rooms of Mr. Hart I heard a voice, liquid, pure, penetrating, which filled my soul with longing and made me determined to possess such a treasure at any cost. There were difficulties in the way, as Mr. Hart had already parted with it to a collector, and it was only after long and earnest persuasion, in which Mr. Hart joined, that I was enabled to buy it for £2000." What really turned the scale however was the fact that on hearing the artist play on the violin, its possessor decided that any one who could bring such wonderful sounds from it deserved to have it for his own. The " Hart Guarnerius " belonged to the late Mr. George Hart, who prized it so highly that he could not be induced to part with it. His son received offers from people in every part of the world, and the late Professor Wilhelmj made repeated efforts to obtain it, but without success. The date of the violin is 1737, and the initials of the famous Joseph Guarnerius are set in diamonds on the tail piece, while the pegs and buttons are also ornamented with diamonds and rubies."

Fritz Kreisler's Violins, B. Henderson, The Strad, 1908, London




Right, now off to watch those great British ambassadors of good taste and understatement, Fuze. 


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and remember that "the alleged Messiah violin" (ahem!) was acquired by Hills in 1890 for £2000. I am not sure how much the market had leapt by 1904 when Kreisler paid the same amount. I think there was a run on the market around this time, spiked by the Messiah and Tuscan sales, but ... 


But less the case, that would surely be £1800 for the violin! 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Here's one of those stories that we'll probably never know to be true or false; I rather doubt it, myself:


The Hill's had Strad and Guarneri decorative medallions for tailpieces, only to be used on the real thing, of course.  These are highly valued today.  Both medallions were divided in two:  The Strad has what looks like a light sea horse above a dark sea horse.  The Guarneri has a black bird with wings expanded over a skull with horns.  (Examples of each can be seen in the Sotheby's "Four Centuries of Violin Making.") 


The story is that Heifetz had left his violin in to be worked on at the Hill's, and when he returned to get it he found that someone had put one of these medallions on his tailpiece.  He was irate and asked about it.  Well, the Hill's thought they were being very nice and honoring Mr. Heifetz.  But Heifetz would have none of it and demanded they remove it, saying, "I am not in the business of advertising Hill's."


BTW, if anyone knows why Hill chose the sea horses and the bird and skull, I'd like to know what significance there is to those.

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