The story that my grandmother's told me is that her grandfather's great-grandfather, I believe, had met a man that came from Italy, and his daughter was getting married and he didn't have anything to give to them for their wedding present so he traded this violin for a keg of wine.
That was a good trade, a good trade. The story goes that J.B. Villon, who was the most successful and certainly the most flamboyant of the violin dealers and makers in Paris in the mid-19th century, announced that he had come across and now owned the world's oldest violin. It was made by Gaspar Duiffopruggar-- which is what this is labeled. Duiffopruggar was the teacher of Gasparo da Salo who is thought, usually, as the first violin maker. Therefore, this must be the world's first violin. In fact, Duiffopruggar never made a violin. He lived before the violin was invented. The date on this label actually would have made Duiffopruggar two years old when the instrument was made.
That's what I had found out as well.
It's a bit of a fantasy. But Villon created quite a lot of interest this way. Many of the greatest collectors wanted to buy his violin. He said he would never part with it, but he would make copies of it. This really caught on. These became famous and sought after all over Europe to the point where many different makers in different countries made these. I, however, think that this is probably one of the original instruments. It was either made in the Villon shop or perhaps in the shop of Honoré Derazey, who was a Parisian... a mirecourt maker hired by Villon to work on these instruments. This has the appearance of one of the earlier ones that would make the date between 1840 and 1860. Theoretically, this is meant to be a portrait of Duiffopruggar-- it isn't. This is meant to be the gates of Prague, but it isn't. They're just very interesting things. And rather sought after now. Actually, bluegrass players love to play these. And if it is from the Villon shop, somewhere inside of this is a tiny little brand, which I haven't been able to find. If we could find that brand, that would establish it as Villon shop. Around $8,000 to $10,000.
If it's Derazey, outside of the Villon shop, there would also be an equally hard to find mark about $5,000 to $7,000. I really think that it is one of those.
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Arthur & George
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