With the decline toward the end of the 18th century of the Cremonese golden era of violinmaking, centres such as Turin, Venice and elsewhere became the focal points in upholding the traditions of Italian violinmaking that set the benchmark for the rest of the world. Foremost among the 19th century great Italian master violinmakers were Pressenda, Rocca, Fagnola and others. Right amongst the great masters, was Eugenio Degani (1840-1915).
Degani worked in Monagnana, Trieste and eventually settled in Venice, where he produced most of his work. The authority Henley says this of him: "Every curve of the outline splendidly sweeped. Clean and precise approach to corners. Corners and edges distinctively portrayed (...). Ingeniously-carved scroll, volute pefectly graduated and edges treated with a sort of flange. (...) Tonal quality very clear, responsive and Italianesque - one that will have futuristic signficance." Degani is today considered one of the foremost 19th century Italian masters - his instruments are eagerly sought out by discerning professionals throughout the world.
This violin was recently discovered in a remote part of South Africa and rescued from obscurity and certain oblivion. It was in a serious state of neglect, but structurally in excellent condition. It was taken to Amsterdam where it was restored by the important Dutch violinmaker, Andreas Post. Post confirmed the violin's authenticity. He assessed furthermore that the scratches and marks on the front were superficial and of no structural consequence. He in fact refused to restore the marks, stating that they were part of the violin's unique history and "character", and should be left as is.
In January 2009 this instrument was taken to Paris where is was examined by France's leading violin authority, who confirmed verbally that it is the authentic work of Eugenio Degani, a fact that no-one to date has disputed.
The two-piece back is of mildly flamed maple of narrow curl. The ribs, neck and scroll are of matching material, displaying only very mild flame, to the extent of being almost plain. However, the scroll is a masterpiece of attention, balance and elegance normally associated with Degani's scrolls, and was described by one French authority as 'unmistakably pure Degani'. The top is of tone spruce with narrow grain in the centre, broadening out to the flanks. The f-holes are elegant and balanced. The reddish amber varnish greatly compliments the wood.
If any doubts may linger about the quality of this instrument, it disappears the moment you play on it. The quality and beauty of its tone sets it apart from other instruments - here is the substance that made Eugenio Degani what he was and which has placed him in the ranks of the foremost Italian violinmakers of the late 19th century.