Anciaume le Jeune

Posted By on August 7, 2010

Violin by Anciaume

This violin is branded in two places, at the top of the back and inside, and both brands are as new-looking as the rest of it: Anciaume le Jeune.

Violin by Anciaume

The neck (and indeed the fingerboard) are original. It’s a transitional-period instrument, the neck being less angled than that of a modern violin and very short – around 7mm less than than most players are used to.

Violin by Anciaume
It is in quite astonishingly fresh condition, looking, well, almost new.

It has survived in this condition, I suspect, because it was a little open in the centre-join of the back, rendering it quite unplayable. Somebody just put it away, and only now has it re-surfaced and been fixed. It must have happened shortly after it was made, for there is very little wear on the wedge-shaped fingerboard, and even the varnish under the chin is only slightly compromised. There are no chinrest marks at all. This has never had a chinrest fitted. The edges are complete and undamaged. The pegholes have never been re-bushed.

Who was Anciaume le Jeune? The Reverend H.R. Haweis, in 1905, recorded him in his dictionary of violin makers, but only to remark “existence doubtful”. However, Haweis was often wrong. The more recent Henley dictionary suggests that he was probably the younger brother of somebody called Bernard Anciaume. Apparently the elder was working a bit earlier – 1770-1790, and the younger around 1780-1800. The younger is reckoned the better of the two, with rather clean workmanship.

Violin by Anciaume
“Rather clean workmanship”

Well, yes, I suppose so, but it’s no great beauty. It reminds me very strongly of a maker called Chappuy, who was a little older, but still working in Mirecourt around the same time as Anciaume. It has a broad patch of darker varnish across the centre bouts of both the front and back, just like Chappuy. Also the soundholes and arching are very similar to Chappuy’s. I think they must have been associated in some way. However, a difference is the peculiar scalloped gouge marks in the lower wings of the soundholes – I don’t remember seeing that on anything by Chappuy, who was a prolific maker, whereas this is the first Anciaume I’ve come across.

Violin by Anciaume
Did I mention the condition?

Despite my aesthetic judgement about the appearance, violins like this can sound well. Fran├žois Habeneck, the teacher of Alard, played on a Chappuy nearly all his life . . . but there is also a Stradivari called the Habeneck, so perhaps there is more to this story.

Violin by Anciaume

Calling all gut-string players! A two hundred and twenty year old nearly new violin! One careful owner; very low milage. Plays well at 415Hz. I defy you to find anything as old in such perfect original condition.

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