Highest auction price achieved
£ 205250.00

By Cecie Stainer

Son of Martin Stainer and Sabina Grafinger: b July 14, 1621, at Absam near Hall in the Tyrol: d. there, 1683. Little is known of the first part of his life but there seems to be absolutely no evidence in support of the statement that he went to Cremona to become a pupil of Nicola Amati, married the daughter of the latter, and afterwards passed some time in Venice. A violin with the inscription. '' Jacobus Stiner cremonia fecite 1642," which was in the Monastery of Stams, is generally thought not to be genuine Stainer work. He would no doubt have studied the Italian instruments used by the Italian musicians, who assembled at Innsbruck at the Court of the Archduke Ferdinand Carl, Count of the Tyrol, and this would account for his earlier work showing traces of Italian influence; the thicknesses of the wood and the disposition of the blocks and linings being similar to Cremonese work. The old German viol-makers, as is known, used no linings at all, and did their dimensions and thicknesses by guesswork. Stainer's instruments soon showed those distinctive characteristics known as " Tyrolese " ; he was practically the founder of the Tyrolese or German school of violin making; the large number and great excellence of his instruments, all made on the same high model, and the reputation he gained in his lifetime, causing his work to be copied in Germany, England, and even in Italy. And it was a long time before makers realised that this high model was in any way defective. An old tradition says that instruments dated as early as 1639 are known ; if so, they are extremely rare. In 1641 he was already selling his violins at the large market-fairs of Hall. On Nov. 26, 1645, he married Margarethe Holzhammer (b. March 10, 1624; d. 1693), in Absam, the witnesses being Michael Pamperger and Hans Grafinger, the latter a relation of his. He had nine children, eight daughters, and a son who died in infancy. In 1648 he travelled in Austria, and remained for some time working in Kirchdorf, living in the house of Saloman Hübmer, a Jew. He unfortunately left in debt for a small amount; but though, in 1667, when called upon, he paid part of it, the debt seemed to grow rather than diminish for in 1669 it had reached the sum of 24 gulden, and in 1677 he made a vain appeal to the Emperor for its remittance. In spite of this he had bought (Nov. 12, 1666) a house and garden from his brother-in law, Paul Holzhammer so at that time his affairs were going on well. Though later there is no doubt that money worries helped to throw him into the state of profound melancholy from which he suffered for four years before his death, and which ended in his losing his reason entirely in 1681. The Archduke Ferdinand Carl had sent for him to Innsbruck, and, Oct. 29, 1658, appointed him violin maker to the Court. Jan. 9, 1669, he was appointed violin maker to the Emperor Leopold I. ; the same year he was imprisoned on suspicion of being implicated in the Lutheran movement, but was released in 1670. He made an enormous number of stringed instruments of all sorts; for his violins he used a particular kind of wood from a tree called the " Haselfichte," of which there were large quantities at Gleirsch ; he used to wander from tree to tree tapping with a hammer until he found one which pleased him, and was suitable for his purpose. His instruments are small; the belly rises abruptly from the edges to the foot of the bridge, and then keeps nearly flat; the breadth of this flattened part is about the same as that of the bridge , this high arching necessarily renders the tone thin, in spite of the fact that the wood is left very thick. The sound-holes are shorter and narrower than in Italian instruments, the upper and lower turns are completely circular ; the purfling is also narrower and placed nearer the edge, the scroll is smaller and is particularly round and smooth, it is sometimes replaced by a lion's head, beautifully carved; the sides and back are made of very finely figured maple ; the outline is extremely elegant, although the body is rather shorter and broader than in Italian work ; the work is always beautifully finished ; the varnish, of rich quality, varies in colour from a red mahogany, embrowned by time, to a golden red equal to that of Cremona work ; the tone is not powerful, but has a sweet flute-like sound, it is not generally considered suitable for a concert-room, but a violin, played by Sivori, is said to have had a charmingly sympathetic and unusually brilliant tone. His violins were made in three different sizes, large, medium, and small and are his best work ; his tenors are not so good, although one is mentioned as being perfection both in work and in charm of tone. His double-basses are of great rarity, one was in the Collection of Prince Moriz Lobkowitz at Castle Eisenberg, Bohemia. A viola di bordone, dated 1660, is in the Collection of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde at Vienna, and in the Paris Conservatoire Collection is a small pocket violin, inlaid with silver, with a finely carved head of a faun. There is record of his having sold a viola bastarda, in 1643, to the Archbishop of Salzburg, and of his being again in Salzburg in 1670, when he sold some violins there. A viola da gamba was dated 1667. In 1677 he made two splendid violins for the St. Georgenberg Monastery, but they were unluckily destroyed when the Monastery was burnt down on June 21, 1868. The tradition of his having retired to finish his days in a Benedictine Monastery after his wife's death, and having made there sixteen exquisite violins, of which he presented twelve to the twelve Electors and four to the Emperor, is quite untrue. In the Hall Cathedral a violin is preserved with the label '' Jacobus Stainer oenipontum fecit in Absam, 1653," which was made for the " Damenstift ' in Hall, which was suppressed in 1783.A violin that belonged to Mozart was dated 1656. Stainer had many pupils and imitators, among them Mathias Albani of Botzen, Egidius and Mathias Klotz; these makers if they had turned out a better violin than usual, would use a Stainer label for it. The date of Stainer's death not being generally known, imitations are often post-dated. One is known dated 1684 and one 1729. Though at first Stainer's written labels were carefully imitated, later on printed labels were used with the date 16— or 166—, so that figures could be added in writing. These printed labels may always be taken as a sure sign of copies or imitations; labels are rarely found in genuine Stainer instruments, but when there, they are always written, not printed: “Jacobus Stainer in Absom prope Oenipontum, fecit 1647 " Really genuine instruments, whether violins or violas, though at one time much depreciated, are now steadily increasing in value, a fine viola having realised over £100. His brother Paul was not a violin maker.

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Price History

Type Title Sold Price
Violin 35.2 cm Absam, 1655 c. [Lit.] Fri 1st April 11 £ 69908.00
Violin 35.4 cm Absam, 1659, 'The King', carved lion's head [Lit. & Provenance] Tue 1st March 11 £ 205250.00
Violin 35.3 cm Absam, 1650 c. Mon 1st October 07 £ 46100.00
Violin 35.5 cm Absam, 1670 [Probably by] Wed 1st November 06 £ 38400.00
Violin 35.3 cm Absam, 1660 c. Wed 1st November 06 £ 48000.00
Violin 35.4 cm Absam, 1665 c. Sun 1st October 06 £ 42046.00
Violin 35.2 cm Absam, 1655 c. Mon 1st May 06 £ 82895.00
Violin 35.3 cm Austria, 17th C. (completely unassembled) [Attributed to] Wed 1st February 06 £ 9000.00
Violin Absam, 1660 c. Sun 1st May 05 £ 62400.00
Violin 1690 c. Mon 1st November 04 £ 34655.00
Violin Absam, 1660 c. [Probably by] Mon 1st March 04 £ 19200.00
Violin 1662 Fri 1st November 02 £ 35850.00
Violin 1658 Sun 1st November 98 £ 34500.00
Viola 40.3 cm 1674 Sat 1st March 97 £ 36700.00
Violin 1660 c. Wed 1st November 89 £ 14300.00
Violin 1668 Tue 1st November 88 £ 71500.00
Violin 1677 Sat 1st June 85 £ 18480.00
Violin 16-- Sun 1st March 81 £ 5325.00

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