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Antonio Stradivari 1687 VL Spanish, Ole Bull

This beautiful violin is one of the rare examples of Stradivari’s inlaid instruments. It still bears an original label dated 1687, and for some time it was incorrectly considered to have been part of the set originally crafted by the Cremonese master for the Spanish court, hence the name ‘Spanish’. It was probably George Hart who first misreported this detail in his book written in 1875: ‘In the year 1687 he made a set of instruments for the Spanish Court, inlaid with ivory, and having a beautiful scroll work running round the sides and scroll. […] One of the Violins of this set was purchased in Madrid about thirty years since by Ole Bull.’ In 1902 the Hill Brothers hastened to report the error, and even suggested a possible culprit: ‘The year 1687 gives us a violin which has hitherto been known as one of the instruments of the Spanish set, mentioned as such by Hart in his book; but […] it could not have formed part of that concerto. Ole Bull, from whom it was purchased by the late John Hart, who sold it to Mr. Plowden in 1861, bought it in Budapest, and not in Madrid, as stated by Hart. Mention is made of this instrument in Ole Bull’s Memoirs; and no doubt the legend that it came from the Spanish Court emanated from that violinist, the reliability of whose statements may be judged when we read his assertion that this is the only violin that the master made inlaid with ivory and ebony.’ Nevertheless, the moniker ‘Spanish’ remained attached to the violin for a long time but was eventually replaced by the name of the Norwegian violinist Ole Bull (1810–1880), who owned the instrument in the 19th century.

Further Details

Antonio Stradivari Set 1, Volume 1, Page 176