Ref :   0724

A very good German violin by
Leopold Widhalm
(1722 - 1786)
Nürnberg, 1785

Leopold Widhalm was born in 1722. However, there is some divergence over the date of his death, which directly affects the attribution of this violin. Both René Vannes and Lütgendorff give the date of his death as 1776, on 7 June to be exact. However, the authority, William Henley states that Widhalm worked in Nürnberg until 1786, at which point, in 1787, his son (Martin Leopold) took over the business.

This violin is quite clearly dated 1785, even though the certificate by Johann Stüber gives the date as 1781. (One can assume that Stüber simply missread the date.) Stüber also certifies that this violin is Leopold Widhalm senior's work - he may not have been aware of the conflict in dates. One could also speculate that Vannes obtained the information for his book (publ. 1951) from Lütgendorff's earlier publication (1904), and that the latter had it wrong, or that there was a typo error in the text - the 76 should have been an 86. It is accepted that the son took over the business in 1787. So, who ran the business from 1776 to 1787? It makes more sense that the son took over the business when his father retired or died in 1786.

If however Leopold Widhalm did die in 1776, it means this violin is not his work, but that of his son, Martin Leopold (1747-1806), whose work is described by Henley as being equal to that of the father. Furthermore, the father's varnish was known to be a garnet red, whereas the son sometimes used a dark brown varnish which wore away quickly, as is the case with this violin. Moreover, the son at some time used an identical label to his father's - the same label used in this violin.

Whatever the case may be, this instrument also bears the two letters L. and W. branded into the back, just below the label - making this almost certainly the work of Leopold Widhalm senior, as stated by the certificate. That, furthermore, makes a strong case for the senior Widhalm's year of death being 1786 and not 1776, when he would have been merely 54.

This violin is in superb condition, without a single crack or discernable repair anywhere in the body. The arching and general model is reminiscent of Stainer, but not entirely. The f-holes are crisp and tidy, elegant and balanced. The scroll shows a fine hand and attention to the balance - really beautiful. The top is of finely grained spruce with a very straight grain opening to the flanks. The two-piece back is of mildly flamed maple with a straight medium curl. The ribs have a more narrow flame.

The dark brown varnish is well-worn, exposing a yellow ground - not unappealing in all its wear. The violin is full of character marks and wear patterns in the varnish, all merely superficial and with no structural implications.

One unusual aspect - the violin has a neck graft at both ends of the neck! This is impeccably done. For some reason it was decided not to remove the neck from the body when replacing it, but rather to graft in into the previous neck's root. There is minor cracking in the button, but this could be repaired by a good craftsman.

This instrument is extremely well-toned with a rich responsive and powerful sound, with none of the tubbiness sometimes associated with more prolific German makers under the Stainer influence, but it rather has focus and good penetration. It lends itself well to solo repertoire.

The opinion has been expressed by one authority that this violin could be converted beautifully into a Baroque instrument.


Dimensions :
  Back length: 35.5 cm; Upper bout: 16.6 cm; Middle bout: 11.1 cm; Lower bout: 20.4 cm

Condition :
  Excellent. No cracks or discernable repairs in the top or bottom. A minor crack in the front edge of the button can be repaired. The varnish is worn, but is original and not retouched. Note that the line in the back at the soundpost position is a scratch and not a crack. The edges and two corners on the treble side of the top is somewhat worn.

Provenance :

Price : P.O.A.


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