Curiosities

Posted By on July 5, 2011

Here are a few quirky things.

The first is a poster for one of Paganini’s concerts in London. It’s fascinating on various levels. Paganini was a superstar by 1832, and his concerts were invariably sold out. Such was his skill that it was said he was in league with the devil – and some of the more gullible even claimed to have smelt sulphur during his performances. Look how the concerts were mixed up – a Mozart sinfonia, a Weber overture and plenty of singing as well as regular fireworks by Paganini. One of his sets is to be played on one string only.

Paganini poster

This particular poster is framed, and stuck on the back is a nice letter from Arthur Hill (of W.E. Hill & Sons) dated 3rd May, 1935. I bought this poster in a general auction, and it was accompanied by a beautiful trade card from John Betts, the Real Musical Instrument Maker. This latter dates from circa 1800.

Betts trade card

Now here are some beautiful oak violin cases.

Hill Oak violin cases

Heavy and easily scratched – impractical, of course, and I seem to accumulate them faster than I can sell them. Old cases can be very interesting, though – I have one made for Charles Brugère, with his name nicely engraved in italic on the lock, for example, and another sold by Auguste Sebastien Philippe Bernardel. Mahogany cases (again, I have too many) tend to be older, but one in particular interests me, because it certainly dates from 1813.

Mahogany Kennedy viola case

This I know because it exactly fits the outline of the 15 3/16in. viola by Thomas Kennedy that I bought recently. I was delighted that it came in its original case. Incidentally, the viola is clearly inscribed on the inside of both the front and the back: Thos. Kennedy, Maker, 16, Wellington Street, Middlesex Hospital, London, 1813. The address is interesting, for at that date Kennedy was working at 16, Nassau Street, Middlesex Hospital. I conjecture that the name was briefly changed to that of the hero of the day – Wellington’s spectacular victories in Spain date from 1810 (Bucasso), 1812 (Salamanca) and two in 1813 (Vitoria and Nivelle).

Neatly fitting viola in bespoke case

Oh, look at this. I’ve often seen tiny miniature model violins, but never this good.

Miniature violin in case

Miniature violin in case

Miniature violin in case

Miniature violin in case

violin mutes

The miniature brass mute and an ordinary full sized one. I haven’t cheated; that’s not a viola mute.

The case is a perfect copy, the bow tightens up as it should, the pegs turn, there’s a soundpost and a bassbar inside . . . even a miniature box of rosin and a tiny violin mute, all to scale. Unbelievably, the purfling is inlaid – though one needs a powerful lens to see it.

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