Irish / French Violin

Posted By on February 12, 2017

Irish violin with French script
This violin is unmistakably Irish. It’s very like an instrument by Thomas Perry of Dublin, or of his cousin James Perry of Kilkenny. It’s unpurfled, and broadly similar to much English work of the late 18th century, except internally it has the tiny corner blocks usual in Irish violins, and externally the soundholes are very distinctive: the bottoms look too large for the tops.

The decoration, however, is different. Apart from the scrolling foliage around the edges it has good signwriting on the ribs: Ni regret du passé ni peur de lavenir. Also, within a cartouche under the tailpiece is the legend Au Diable la Tristesse. Gung-ho stuff.

It’s tempting to think that this violin might have belonged to an officer in Napoleon’s army. In the 1790’s there was a considerable effort by the French to liase with the Irish to join them in a war with England. After a failed effort in 1796, the French successfully landed around 2,000 men in August 1798 in County Mayo in the north west. Joined by 5,000 locals they quickly defeated the English at Castlebar and set up a short-lived “Republic of Connacht”, only to be defeated in turn within a month. The French prisoners were swapped for returning British prisoners of war, but the Irish officers were hanged.

The back is painted neatly with the initials JWJ. There were seventeen Napoleonic generals with the initials JJ, where the middle initial is unknown, and one with the initials painted on the back of this violin: JWJ. There must have been correspondingly more colonels, majors and lower ranks. W is an unusual initial for a Frenchman, although not impossible, but quite common for a Belgian.

Irish violin with French script

Irish violin with French script

Irish violin with French script

Irish violin with French script

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