Carlo (I) Bergonzi

Highest auction price achieved
£ 568000.00

By George Hart

Pupil, of Antonio Stradivari. That he was educated in Violin-making by the greatest master of his art art is evidenced beyond doubt. In his instruments may be clearly traced the" teachings of Stradivari.The model, the thicknesses, and the scroll, together with the general treatment, all agree in betokening that master's influence. Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu here stands in strong contrast with Bergonzi. All writers on the subject of Violins assume that Guarneri was instructed by Stradivari, a statement based upon no reasons (for none have ever been adduced), and apparently a mere repetition x of some one's first guess or error. As before remarked, Carlo Bergonzi, in his work, and in the way in which he carries out his ideas, satisfactorily shows the source whence his early instructions were derived, and may be said to have inscribed the name of his great master, not in print, but in the entire "body" of every instrument which he made. This cannot be said of Giuseppe Guarneri. On the contrary, there is not a point throughout his work that can be said to bear any resemblance to the sign manual of Stradivari. As this interesting subject is considered at length in the notice of Giuseppe Guarneri, it is unnecessary to make further comment in this place. The instruments of Carlo Bergonzi are justly celebrated both for beauty of form and tone, and are rapidly gaining the appreciation of artistes and amateurs/ Commercially, no instruments have risen more rapidly than those of this maker; their value has increased within the past twenty years fourfold, more particularly in England, where their merits were earliest acknowledged—a fact which certainly reflects much credit' upon our connoiseurs. In France they had a good character years ago, and have been gaining rapidly upon their old reputation, and now our neighbours regard them with as much favour as we do.They possess tone of rare quality, are for the most part extremely handsome, and last and most important of all, their massive construction has helped them, by fair usage and age, to become instruments of the first order. The model of Bergonzi's Violins is flat, and the outline of his early efforts is of the Stradivari type; but later in life, he, in common with other great Italian makers, marked out a pattern for himself from which to construct. The essential difference between these two forms lies in the angularity of the latter. It would be very difficult to describe accurately the several points of deviation unless the reader could handle the specimens for himself and have ocular demonstration; the upper portion from the curve of the centre bouts is increased, and, in consequence, the sound-holes are placed slightly lower than in the Stradivari model. Bergonzi was peculiar in this arrangement, and he seldom deviated from it. Again, increased breadth is given to the lower portion of the instrument, and in consequence the centre bouts are set at a greater angle than is customary. The sound-hole may be described as an adaptation of the characteristics of both Stradivari and Guarneri, inclining certainly more to those of the former. As a further peculiarity, it is to be noticed that the sound-holes are set nearer the edge than is the case in the instruments of either of the makers named. Taken as a whole, Bergonzi's design is rich in artistic feeling, and one which he succeeded in treating with the utmost skill. Carlo Bergonzi furnishes us with another example of the extensive research with which the great Cremonese makers pursued their art, and a refutation of the common assertion that these men worked and formed by accident rather than by judgment. The differences of the two makers mentioned above as regards form are certainly too wide to be explained away as a matter of mere accident. It is further necessary to take into consideration the kind of tone belonging to these instruments respectively. If Bergonzi's instruments be compared with those of his master, Stradivari, or of Guarneri del Gesu, the appreciable difference to be found will amount to this, that in Bergonzi's instruments there is a just and exact combination of the qualities of both the other two makers named. Is it not, therefore, reasonable to conclude that Carlo Bergonzi was fully alive to the merits of both Stradivari and Guarneri, and deliberately set himself to construct a model that should embrace in a measure the chief characteristics of both of them ? The scroll is deserving of particular attention. It is quite in keeping with the body of the instrument, and has been cut with a decision of purpose that could only have been possessed by a master. It is flatter than usual, if we trace it from the cheek towards the turn, and is strikingly bold. Here, again, is the portrait of the character of the maker. Although by a pupil of Antonio Stradivari, the scroll is thoroughly distinct from any known production of that maker—it lacks his fine finish and exact proportion; but, on the other hand, it has an originality about it which is quite refreshing* The prominent feature is the ear of the scroll, which being 'made to stand forth in bold relief gives it a broad appearance when looked at from, the front. The work of Bergonzi, as has been the case with many of his class, has been attributed to others. Many of his instruments are dubbed "Joseph Guarneri," a mistake in identification which arises chiefly from the form of the sound-hole at the upper and lower portions. There is little else that can be considered as bearing any resemblance whatever to the work of Guarneri, and even in this case the resemblance is very slight. Bergonzi's outline is totally different from that of Guarneri,: and is so distinct and telling that it is sure to impress the eye of the experienced connoisseur when first seen. The varnish of Bergonzi is often fully as resplendent as that of Giuseppe Guarneri or Stradivari, and shows him to have been initiated in the mysteries of its manufacture. It is sometimes seen to be extremely thick, at other times but sparingly laid on; often of a deep, rich red colour, sometimes of a pale red, and again, of rich amber, so that the variation of colour to be met with in Bergonzi's Violins is considerable. We must concede that his method of varnishing was scarcely; so painstaking as that of his (fellow-workers, if we judge from the clots here and there, particularly on the deep coloured instruments; but, nevertheless now that age has toned down the varnish, the effect is good. Carlo Bergonzi lived next door to Stradivari, and I believe the house remained in the family until three years since, when it was disposed of. Lancetti remarks : " From want of information, we have forgotten in the second volume"—referring to his " Biographical Dictionary," part of which was printed in 1820—"to include an estimable maker named Carlo Bergonzi, who was pupil of Stradivari, and fellow-workman with his sons. From the list of names and dates collected by Count Cozio, it appears that Carlo Bergonzi worked by himself from 1716 to 1746. He used generally very fine foreign wood, and a varnish of the quality of that of his master." In the collection of Count Cozio di Salabue, there were two Violins by Bergonzi, dated 1731 and 1733, and a Violoncello, 1746. We have in this country two remarkable Violoncellos of this maker, which are represented on Plate 5 and Plate 10. The perfect and unique Double Bass which Vuillaume purchased of the executors of Luigi Tarisio, is now in the possession of Mr. John Sears, of Boston, U.S.

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Price History

Type Title Sold Price
Violin 35.3 cm 1800 c. [Attributed to] Thu 1st October 09 £ 21600.00
Violin 35.2 cm Cremona, 1870 c. [Probably by "Nicole"] Mon 1st June 09 £ 36000.00
Violin Cremona, 1720 c. ex 'Paganini' & 'Vuillaume' with Prov. Tue 1st November 05 £ 568000.00
Violin 1739 Mon 1st October 84 £ 105600.00
Violin 1715 Wed 1st June 83 £ 28571.00

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