23 Violin Objet de Vertu

23 • A Violin 'Objet de Vertu'

Normandy, France, 1883
60 cm long; pine
Dated at the tip of the back of the neck.
Hand-written label inside: ‘1883–84/Violon a une seule piece
/A…(?) fils/Sainte Marguerite de l’Autel, Eure.’

This violin is a masterpiece of craftsmanship. Made from a single block of pine, the violin has been hollowed out using tools specifically made for the job, and with unusually fine skill since the only access point to do so was through the two sound-holes.

The concept of an objet de vertu was very much in vogue during the 18th and 19th centuries, often associated with a certain mysticism, an act of thanksgiving or an acknowledgement of a prayer answered. Such objects are characterized by a perfection of skill, they were made using a system of great ingenuity or by completing a feat of exceptional technicality. The objet de vertu’s value is reflected in the difficulties overcome and time spent in its execution.