Jeffery James Gilbert

Highest auction price achieved
£ 3941.00

By William Meredith Morris

He is the son of Jeffery and Eleanor Langley Gilbert, and was born in New Romney on Aug. 16, 1850. He is the direct representative of an old Kentish family, one of the most notable members of which, in recent times, was Sir Jeffery Gilbert, whom the learned in the law described as " the accomplished exchequer baron." He received private tuition till he was about twelve years of age, after which he spent some years at the Crockley Green Grammar School, which was then under the mastership of Mr. Thomas Dalby. Mr. Gilbert is one of the leading makers of modern times, and his workmanship, varnish, and tone give him a place amongst the very select few of the innermost circle of present day makers. Although he has always been of an artistic and musical turn of mind, he was more than twenty years of age before he had any kindly feelings for the violin in particular. Having once caught the infection he was soon in the firm grip of the fiddle " disease." His father in his own early days was an enthusiastic amateur player and maker, and from him he seems to have inherited the practical side of his character. He commenced his early studies quite unaided, as his father did all he could to discourage the budding "Stradivari," intending him for another career ; and, living as he was in a small isolated town, there were no opportunities of gaining any knowledge whatever upon the subject. The purely mechanical part of the work never presented any great difficulty to his hand and eye, but he was not long in recognising the fact that it required something more than an expert use of carving tools to create a masterpiece in tone, and especially was the difficulty of an approximate reproduction of the fine old varnishes realised by him. About this time he made the acquaintance of several connoisseurs in London, notably that of the late Charles Reade, the late George Hart, Mr. Horace Petherick, Dr. John Day, and George Withers, all of whom took a kindly interest in his work, and from time to time gave him useful hints. Mr. Reade was especially interested in his varnish studies, and on the eve of his last departure for the Continent, a short time before his death, had a long chat with him on the " mysteries " of old Cremona. It was at this final parting that Reade spoke to him the cheery words, " Go on, Mr. Gilbert, do not get discouraged, I am sure you will succeed in the end." This was in allusion to the varnish problem. In 1876, Mr. Gilbert was married to Miss Lily White, in St. John's Church, Peterborough. He has six children, named Jeffery Francis White, Charles Clement, Catharine Eleanor, Leslie Baker, Kate Julia, and Frederick William. Up to date, Mr. Gilbert has made 166 instruments, comprising six 'cellos, thirty violas and viola altas, and the remainder violins. His aim has always been quality, and not quantity, and he carefully studies each instrument during its construction. His models have varied from time to time, and are original, without being vagaries on the one hand or slavish copies on the other. The measurements of the two violin models, of distinctly different outline, from which he is at present working, are as follows : — (a) Length of body … 14 ins,Width across upper bouts . . . 6 1/2ins,Width across middle bouts . . . 4 3/8ins,Width across lower bouts … 8 ins,Width of ribs at bottom … 1 1/4ins,[Ribs] Gradually diminishing at top to … 1 3/16ins, (b) Length of body … 14ins,Width across upper bouts . . . 6 5/8ins,Width across middle bouts . . . 4 1/2ins,Width across lower bouts … 8 1/8ins,Ribs same as above. The sound-holes are the same in both models and are 3 1/16ins The measurements of the viola model are : — Length … 16ins,Width across upper bouts . . . 7 5/8ins,Width across middle bouts . . . 5 1/8ins,Width across lower bouts … 9ins,Depth of ribs at bottom … 1 1/2ins,Depth of ribs at top … 1 3/8ins, and those of the viola alta : — Length … 17ins,Width across upper bouts . . . 8 1/8ins,Width across middle bouts . . . 5 3/8ins,Width across lower bouts … 9 1/2ins,Depth of ribs 1/16 in. more all over than in those of viola. The length of sound-holes is identical in both violas and viola altas, and is 3 5/8 in. His 'cello model is also an original one, and the measurements are : — Length … 29 3/4ins,Width across upper bouts . . . 13 3/4ins,Width across middle bouts . . . 9 3/4ins,Width across lower bouts … 17 1/2ins,Depth of ribs … 4 9/16ins,Length of sound-holes … 5 11/16ins, The outline of Mr. Gilbert's instruments is very beautiful, and the curves are as graceful as it is possible for curves to be. The violin scroll is in the best Italian style. The width from boss-edge to boss-edge is 1 9/16in. The depth of the peg-box at the deepest part is 15/16in., diminishing to 11/16 at the throat. The scollop is nicely rounded, and projects sufficiently to produce piquancy of expression. The curves of the volute are most delicately scooped at the base, and the flutes at the back of the box give the correct balance in lines of subdued boldness. The button is nearly semi-circular, strong, and in keeping with the contour. The edges are fairly full, not exactly rounded nor yet raised, but turned in a manner that emphasises the extreme outline of the fiddle. The margin was exactly 1/8 in. wide in the specimens examined by me, and the purfling, which was inlaid beautifully, 1/16in. wide. The sound-holes are a masterly conception. In outline they are all but identical with those of Strad ; but not in inclination. The notch is a most interesting detail — I have never seen it made so artistically by any other luthier, whether classical or post-classical. The hollowing out of the lower lip (or wing) is also a noticeable feature, and is in the best Stradivarian style. The varnish is luscious, brilliant, and transparent. Colours : amber, dark amber, light brown, very dark brown, light red, and deep rich red. In the last-mentioned colour the varnish is of surpassing beauty and excellence. It is beautiful in all the colours, but in describing the deep red, " beautiful " and such-like adjectives are not quite good enough. The varnish is, of course, an oil one — not " linseed or any other heavy oil, which destroy all that is good in colour, delicacy, and brilliancy " — so Mr. Gilbert informs me. The wood is always acoustically perfect and very handsome. It is mostly cut sur maille though I have seen one specimen in which both tables were whole. The tone is large, clear, and bell-like, and with age and careful use will develop, no doubt, qualities that may be considered in their sum total as a just combination of the sweetness of Amati and the power of Guarneri. All the work is personal, and the instruments are numbered consecutively as they are finished, both upon the base of the neck (under the finger-board) and inside on the face of the top block. They have also in addition to the label the artist's autograph on the back. The prices are : — Violins … 25 guineas. Violas … 25 guineas.'Cellos from … 45 guineas. Mr. Gilbert's instruments have gained the following awards: — "International Exhibition," Crystal Palace, 1884, Silver Medal (highest award) ; " International Inventions Exhibition," London, 1885, Silver Medal; "International Exhibition," Edinburgh, 1890, Gold Medal. Facsimile label : — Jeffery J. Gilbert. PeterboroughFecit. Anno mdcccxcix. The label is printed on cartridge paper from an engraved block.

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Price History

Type Title Sold Price
Violin 35.9 cm Peterborough, 1899 Fri 1st July 11 £ 1469.00
Violin 35.8 cm Peterborough, 1929 Fri 1st October 10 £ 2253.00
Violin 35.6 cm Peterborough, 1897 Mon 1st June 09 £ 1560.00
Violin 36 cm Sat 1st December 07 £ 541.00
Violin 35.6 cm English, 1933 Mon 1st October 07 £ 1176.00
Violin 35.8 cm Peterborough, 1929 Mon 1st May 06 £ 2146.00
Violin 35.6 cm Peterborough, 1911 Wed 1st February 06 £ 1680.00
Viola 40.4 cm Peterborough, 1911 Tue 1st November 05 £ 1560.00
Violin Peterborough, 1916 Tue 1st November 05 £ 3941.00
Violin Peterborough, 1933 Sun 1st May 05 £ 1080.00
Violin Petersborough, 1905 Mon 1st November 04 £ 1208.00
Violin New Romney, 1884 Mon 1st March 04 £ 358.00
Violin 1899 Sat 1st March 03 £ 1410.00
Violin 1900 Fri 1st November 02 £ 1035.00
Violin 1905 Fri 1st March 02 £ 1400.00
Violin 1893 Thu 1st March 01 £ 1762.00
Violin 1933 Fri 1st December 00 £ 1265.00
Violin 1933 Fri 1st December 00 £ 1035.00
Violin 1920 Fri 1st September 00 £ 437.00
Cello 1902 Tue 1st July 97 £ 3800.00
Violin 1900 c. Sat 1st June 96 £ 1380.00
Viola 42.1 cm 1910 Wed 1st November 95 £ 1840.00
Violin 1921 Wed 1st November 95 £ 1495.00
Violin 1922 Sun 1st October 95 £ 1955.00
Violin 1905 Sun 1st October 95 £ 1265.00
Violin 1917 Thu 1st June 95 £ 2530.00
Viola 41.0 cm 1906 Mon 1st May 95 £ 2645.00
Violin 1903 Wed 1st June 94 £ 2300.00
Cello 19-- Wed 1st June 94 £ 2750.00
Viola 39.7 cm 1893 Tue 1st March 94 £ 920.00
Violin 1906 Mon 1st November 93 £ 880.00
Viola 40.8 cm 1905 Thu 1st April 93 £ 1840.00
Violin 1889 Thu 1st April 93 £ 920.00
Viola 38.4 cm 1884 Mon 1st March 93 £ 1265.00
Violin 1915 Mon 1st March 93 £ 1725.00
Viola 40.5 cm 1912 Mon 1st April 91 £ 1980.00
Violin 1898 Mon 1st April 91 £ 1210.00
Viola 39.7 cm 1919 Thu 1st March 90 £ 2420.00
Cello 1928 Thu 1st June 89 £ 3300.00
Cello 1922 Wed 1st March 89 £ 3850.00
Viola 43.2 cm 1899 Tue 1st September 87 £ 1650.00
Viola 40.6 cm 1911 Mon 1st June 87 £ 550.00
Cello 1926 Mon 1st September 86 £ 1430.00
Viola 40.6 cm 18-- Thu 1st May 86 £ 626.00
Violin Wed 22nd May 13 £ 2250.00
Violin Wed 22nd May 13 £ 2125.00

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