Ref :   0568

A very good English cello by
Richard DUKE
(Active in London 1750 - 1785)
London, c. 1770

Richard Duke towers among the giants in English violin making. Precise dates of his birth and death are not available, but he was active in London from around 1750 till about 1785. Duke modeled his work on Stainer, Amati and at times on Stradivari. Cellos by Richard Duke are somewhat of a rarity and finding an instrument in such an very good state gives a rare opportunity to look at his work closely.

This cello had been worked on by the important Dutch violin maker, J J van de Geest (d.1974), and bears a note inside confirming that the cello was by Richard Duke, made in London in 1770 (see photo). Van de Geest was certainly qualified to make such an assertion since he was, for 18 years, in charge of the London workshop of George Hart & Son, until 1938, when he moved to South Africa. George Hart & Son was then the most important violin firm in London, and at the time of his leaving there, Van de Geest had been exposed for many years to the finest instruments in the world, having routinely worked on them. His extensive knowledge of the work of the masters, made of him a recognized authority of a high order throughout England and Europe. After establishing himself in Johannesburg, until his death in 1974, Van de Geest imported a steady flow of fine instruments into South Africa, and one can assume safely that he brought this cello to this country. Furthermore, he was an internationally recognized restorer and expert - it would stand to reason that the work done on this instrument was by his hand.

During the auction and sale of this cello some years ago, the original certificate established by J J van de Geest on 5 April 1941, was lost, although it had been shown to the buyer by the auctioneer just prior to the auction. There is an accompanying letter from the auctioneer to the buyer, asserting this fact (see photo).

Everything about this instrument conforms to the textbook descriptions of the work of Richard Duke. The scroll and f-holes in particular are perfectly in character and style of the work of Duke. I have recently dealt with a violin by this maker and the scrolls are identical in every aspect. The word London is twice stamped into the back - just below the neck button and near the bottom edge, by the endpin (photos).

The two-piece back is of finely-curled maple, with a distinct and attractive flame. The ribs are of more broadly curled flame, hence not of the same wood. The top is of fine-to medium-grained tone spruce. Indications in the scroll are that the cello had been subject to at least two new necks (see photo of the graft) which would attest to much use over a long time - a good sign, since only good instruments are played on a lot. The current neck is truly a splendid affair of beautifully flamed wood -well-chosen and attractive and worthy of a fine instrument (see photo).

An interesting characteristic is that the lower rib is made in one piece, from c-bout to c-bout (photo). At present the instrument is fitted with an old-style ebony endpin.

Varnish throughout is of an attractive golden brown with just a touch of red in places. The varnish appears to be original, but may have been touched up slightly in places. A wood replacement about 4 cm wide was made in the table and runs from the bottom of the right f-hole all the way down to the edge. This is extremely well-done and virtually invisible - I only became aware of it after doing the photos and comparing the grain under magnification - excellent craftsmanship.

All restoration on this cello is extremely well done. This cello is structurally sound and should be an excellent acquisition for a professional cellist.


Dimensions :
  Not available right now. It is a full size instrument.

Condition :
  Very good condition. Structurally very secure and ready for performance.

Provenance :

Price : Withheld


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