Antonio Stradivari, 1709 Woodwork

Date created: 1709

Creator: Antonio Stradivari


The Royal Academy of Music, London, UK

EMu user since 2001

februaryViotti was the first significant virtuoso to popularise the modified Stradivarius violin and the Tourte model bow. His own playing instrument was a Stradivari of 1704, possibly presented to him by Catherine the Great of Russia in 1781. He may also have endorsed and sold instruments to admirers.

The Viotti ex-Bruce is one of the best-preserved examples of Stradivari's workmanship. It was made during Stradivari's so-called golden period, when he is thought to have been at the height of his powers. The one-piece back, made from tiger-stripe maple, is particularly striking. The quality of the workmanship and the state of preservation - the instrument has been played rarely in the last two centuries - were the key factors in the National Art Collections Fund’s decision to award a grant towards its acquisition.

Giovanni Battista Viotti (1755-1824) can be regarded as the father of modern violin-playing, and as the populariser of Stradivari's violins. As Marie Antoinette's personal violinist he fled the Terror in Paris and arrived in London in 1792 with a reputation as the greatest performer in Europe. He astonished listeners with a tone and expressiveness completely new at the time. The Morning Chronicle from February 1793 says:

it is impossible to speak of [Viotti's] performance in common terms… He not only strikes the senses with wonder, but touches the heart with emotion. 

The importance of the Viotti ex-Bruce violin, quite apart from its remarkable condition and outstanding quality, lies in its potential as an object and subject of inquiry and research. The instrument will be played sparingly under strictly controlled conditions and it will form the pivotal exhibit in a new display of stringed instruments and related material from the Foyle-Menuhin Archive which was acquired by the Academy in 2004.

The instrument has been allocated to the Royal Academy of Music after having been accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax. It was acquired with the aid of additional funding from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the National Art-Collections Fund, J&A Beare, The Belmont Trust, Nigel Brown, Mrs Elizabeth Insall, Mr Albert Frost CBE, Mr Ian Stoutzker CBE, Old Possum's Practical Trust and many anonymous donors.

Copyright Royal Academy of Music