Willemotte Stradivari

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The "Willemotte" Stradivari, 1734

The Willemotte Stradivari offers an intriguing counterpoint to the Titian, made almost twenty years earlier. Key aspects of Stradivari's style persist in the face of age. For example, the lower bass corner purfling channel forms the characteristic "bee sting", but the purfling strips do not fully meet in a miter, an example of style persisting even when accuracy fade. The violin shows a massive solidity in the edgework and corners, and in the remarkably full arching.

Violins of this period do show a departure from the so-called golden period. The arching is markedly higher and fuller, particularly in the top and back horizon arch, a trend that asserted itself in the mid 1720s and continued for the remainder of his late period violins. Compared to the Titian back, the Willemotte shows less of a "bull's eye" of central area thickness, and is more uniform through the middle section with less of a differential to the thicknesses in the bouts.

Tonally, the Willemotte has deep "grand" sound, cushiony and smooth, with much detail and expressive range, while retaining the typical Stradivari "sizzle' in the high register.

Comparing the spectra of the Willemotte and Titian, a most notable feature of the Willemotte is the lowered output in what Dunnewald called the 'nasal" frequency region, about 1000-1500 Hz. In fact, the violin sounds remarkably smooth, while retaining a brilliant edge. The Kreutzer Stradivari of 1727 shows similar lowered output in this so-called "nasal" region, and both of these violins have strong output in the 2-4 kilohertz region, associated with projection and clarity.

Provenance By Christopher Ruening

It is a mystery why three elderly men in the Stradivari workshop, Antonio and his two sons Omobono and Francesco, somehow reversed their decline to make a series of bold and expressive creations in their final seven years. The late Stradivari violins have been the favored concert instruments by a veritable who's who of important artists.

Stradivari's "Willemotte" is characteristic in its masculine edgework and sound holes, full archings, and large form. Despite the somewhat less precise craftsmanship, this violin and others of its period are robust both tonally and visually, the maker having returned to foreign wood rather than the local "oppio."

The Willemotte is named for an early owner, the distinguished 19th century collector, connoisseur, and amateur, Charles Willemotte of Antwerp. During his lifetime he owned no less than twenty of the finest Stradivaris and other instruments too numerous to list. Willemotte acquired the violin in 1886 from Gand & Bernardel in Paris. Gand reported the previous owner was a French amateur named Cartier. Upon the dispersal of the Willemotte collection in 1894, the violin passed to Charles Edler in Frankfurt. In 1928 the violin was sold by Hill & Sons to Gerhard Fischar of Cologne, and in 1955, by Henry Werro to the German-born violinist Maria Lidka, who taught at the Royal College of Music.

By 1983, Bein & Fushi had sold the Willemotte to Albert Overhauser and five years later to its present owner, Dr. Mark Ptashne.