Magazine article Strings

Turin Instruments Attract Attention in London

Magazine article Strings

Turin Instruments Attract Attention in London

Article excerpt

Even though there weren't any million-dollar fiddles to make headlines, the London spring-auction sales still revealed a few hot commodities in the stringed-instrument world. There were enough fine bows to equip the string sections of several orchestras, and a champagne and foie gras reception at Sotheby's to set the scene.

The instruments that garnered the most attention at Sotheby's were those of the Turin School. The works of G.F. Pressenda (1777-1854) rank him in the first tier of 19th-century Italian makers. Pressenda, who next to G.B. Guadagnini is perhaps Turin's bestknown maker, blends the best aspects of French and Italian styles in his work. Pressenda's workmanship, often inspired by Stradivari, is clean and accurate, but without the rigidity that marks many French instruments from that era. The example at Sotheby's, from 1834, showed a mature working style on a Strad pattern, with a typical deep-red varnish that had slightly soaked into the wood. The Pressenda, which sold for £132,500, was the highest-priced Turin instrument that day, but not the only one worthy of notice.

Three other Turin violins also attracted a lot of attention: a 1922 Annibale Fagnola and two examples by Carlo Oddone. All three were in mint condition and had been kept in the same family since their purchase directly from the makers. It's rare to find instruments of this quality in such fine condition and with clean provenance at auction. Fagnola and Oddone might be considered the 20th-century heirs apparent to the Piedmont violin-making legacy. Pressenda's work exerts a clear influence over both makers even though they were born too late to have been directly influenced by him.

Fagnola (1865-1939), who claimed to be a self-taught maker, began his career by mainly copying the works of his Piedmont predecessors, Guadagnini, Pressenda, and Giuseppe Rocca. …

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