Carlo Antonio Taneggia

Posted By on November 22, 2011

I went to a performance at the English National Opera last weekend. Above the safety curtain, and part of the permanent structure of the place, is a large sign which says COLISEVM. And it set me to thinking about the use of V instead of U.

Stradivari, famously, did it the opposite way round: the vast majority of his labels say Stradiuarius; only after 1730 do they use a “v” instead of a “u”. And the Hills noted that there are some genuine labels which spell the Christian name Antonins instead of Antonius. This is a further complication, the use of the letter “n” instead of “u”. The Hills explained this by suggesting that, with old-fashioned moveable type, the type-setter had simply got the letter upside-down.

The reason I mention it now is because I have a violin in stock made by Carlo Taneggia, for so he is recorded by Carlo Chiesa, and Chiesa is a very considerable scholar. However I know of a Milanese violin made in 1731 in absolutely original state, still with its original stained fruitwood fingerboard, tailpiece and three of its pegs. I found it for Sotheby’s in 1990, and it was Lot 197 of their sale that year. The label inside is unquestionably genuine, and reads Carolus Antonius Tauegia fecit in Via Lata Mediolani Anno 1731. That’s TAUEGIA. I’m not fussed about whether he uses the letter “g” once or twice, by the way – Shakespeare spelt his name several different ways, and Francesco Rugeri also used different spellings. But the u/v thing is interesting. I had thought that the very clear “u” in the label mentioned was actually a “v”, and I catalogued the violin as by Tavegia. I suppose Chiesa, who has more information than I, reckons it’s an “n”.

Tavegia/Taneggia was a primarily a bucket maker, resident in Contrada Larga (the violin-maker’s street) in Milan. According to Chiesa he lived there all his life, so Via Lata in 1731 really is new information.

It shouldn’t really matter, for Taneggia was definitely not a gifted maker. Neither were any of the Testore family, though. The snag is that they sound good, and, being Italian and of a certain age, are today very expensive. My violin has been dendrochronologically tested, and the wood dates from around 1710. That fits nicely with Tavegia’s dates of 1681 – c1745. It is undergoing restoration as I write this, so I don’t know how it will turn out or how much I’m going to ask for it at this stage.

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