J. Baptiste Vuillaume Violins: Opinions?

June 20, 2004 at 09:42 PM · Does anyone have any knowledge on the modern violins made by J.B Vuillaume? I understand that they are still being made (by a school?) but by who now? Is it handmade or machine? Anyone knows how do they sound and cost? Thanks!

Replies (51)

June 20, 2004 at 11:10 PM · I play a Vuillaume and it is a fantastic instrument. It is however, authentic. There are many violins out there that have Vuillaume stamped on the back. These are not authentic and are modeled after real Vuillaumes (if you are lucky. Sometimes they are just junk violins stamped to try to make them more valuable).

There are some fine violins made by workers/students from the Vuillaume shop (like Paul Bailly, one of the most known of his students among others).

A real Vuillaume will cost you anywhere between $80,000 and $140,000 at the moment. Violins by his students range between $12,000-$25,000 or maybe a bit more.


P.S. Anyone who is an actual expert (I am far from an expert) and can give more detailed info. please do.

June 20, 2004 at 11:37 PM · greetings,

you need to be careful with Vill. even if it is genuine. teh reason is that during his middle `period` he had a crackpot idea about baking instruments and those violnins can look great but be a complete waste of money.

A good Vill, however, is a world clas sperforing tool.



June 21, 2004 at 12:13 AM · J.B. Vuillaume was a master of marketing, which is the reason that today we don't distinguish between the instruments made by him and by the other workmen, so long as they bear the correct stamp, signature, and number.

Just recently, Preston, I saw a Vuillaume that sold for $155,000. As far as retail sales, I think that's a new record -- and to be honest, a little much for a Vuillaume. There are, after all, about 3200 of them.

As far as authenticity goes, every Vuillaume will have a number on the middle inside back, a stamp on the upper inside back, and a signature near the stamp. The handwriting is very recognizable, and if it doesn't match, it's not right. There are several instruments from around 1845 that have no stamp; this is when Vuillaume moved his shop for the first time (I think he moved to Rue de Petits-Champs). My own extremely speculative theory is that he lost his stamp during the move and had to have another one made. I like it because it reminds me that these makers were ordinary people working to make a living just like everybody else.

By the way, Buri, the instruments that were baked are usually identifiable, and were mostly the ones with the "Stentor" stamp. They're not considered in the same class with the rest of his output, and (should be) priced accordingly.

Generally, Vuillaumes are very powerful instruments, which is usually the main attribute the people that buy them are looking for. But in the same or slightly lower price range, you can find instruments by Fagnola, Scarampella, Oddone, the Gagliano family, and many other lesser known makers who might give a warmer, round, more nuanced sound quality.

June 21, 2004 at 01:29 AM · are gaglianos really less than vuillaumes?

June 21, 2004 at 01:31 AM · The later makers -- Ferdinand, Raffaele, Antonio II, etc.

Joseph, Antonio I, Nicolo, and Alessandro all would be more, 150k and above.

June 21, 2004 at 04:04 AM · Thanks! Did the baking of the violins improve the sound? Btw is there a Vuillaume violin making school that is making violins in the name of J.B vuillaume? Saw one recently that was made in 2001 no. 30 or something like that.

June 21, 2004 at 05:28 AM · Greetings,

no. But the strawberry shortcake was great.

I have two filthy rich students who bought a his and hers Viullaume from pretty much the no1 dealer in Paris (the guy with the auction house who does full page ads in the Strad) . They cost about 50 000 dollars each and came with beautiful certficates which really excites this pair of doctors.

I was going to show them my fifty m breaststroke certificate from first grade and then up my fee but thta is another story.

Anyway, the most ugly seemed to have only a very bland yellow varnish and the wood was not all that exciting but the workmanship was good. The husbands was excitibng redddish and flashy. The former sounded wonderful. would not have paid three thousand for the sound of the latter.

Buyer beware,



June 21, 2004 at 02:41 PM · Buri,

Of course, the tonal quality of an instrument has nothing to do with its value. There are many violins over $100k that don't sound like they're worth it -- except to the right person.

This was the concept that, as a player, it took me a long time to wrap my mind around. But in the business of string instruments, the sound is incidental because it's subjective and easily manipulated. One person may love that Vuillaume's round, warm sound. Another will say it's too tubby and dark, it's not powerful enough, it's not bright enough, etc., etc. And then, if you give that violin to an incompetent luthier, he can destroy that sound without even trying.

But the industry has to deal in defensible, objective facts, not subjective tone. So, the facts are that the violin was made by J.B. Vuillaume, in xx year, in xx place, and is in xx condition. It carries papers from xx appraisers. Those are objective, indisputable facts, and are the only things that can be used to establish the value of the instrument.

June 21, 2004 at 10:37 PM · The Vuillaume I play is a guarneri model. To my untrained eye I cannot even tell the difference. This particular violin does not have the signature inside or the stamp (It's from mid 1840s approx) but has been speculated that it was at some point regraduated (frown). It has what appears to me to be a genuine Del Gesu label in it (did he ever switch labels from destroyed violins to his own?) Anyway, even with it's little problems it is a beauty. It's a very powerful instrument, used to be a bit tubby but with some adjustments, a new sound post and bass bar and bridge everything just went up to the next level. I have played on instruments worth 6 times as much and not liked them as much as this Vuillaume. It's correct though that some vuillaumes will be spectacular while tone-wise others are hardly worth the time it takes to tune them up.

June 24, 2004 at 01:13 AM · In my two short years of "violinistry", I had the opportunity to play a Vuillaume and a Gagliano, over this past winter.

The Vuillaume was indeed a beautiful sounding instrument, all around lovely

But to my ear, it seemed as though the Gagliano had a bit more warmth, and power as well.

Just out of curiosity, would you consider a Gagliano over a Vuillaume?

Just out of

June 24, 2004 at 01:26 AM · Depends how they sound and depends how much money one has. *grin*

The early Gagliano family made some very very fine instruments that have rocketed in price in the recent years. Though I am pretty sure that price increase has slowed to some extent, a fine Gagliano will never depreciate if kept in good condition. However at this point, you will likely pay significantly more for an early Gagliano (ie: Nicolo) than for a Vuillaume. Probably as much as double or a bit more.

Vuilaumes on the other hand, are really seeing a steady rise in value and desirability. I have a feeling that the ratio of money spent and increase in value over 10-15 years will be better with a Vuillaume.

This is not for sure, but just a gut feeling after having watched the prices.

Maybe I'm way off...LOL...who knows but the Mega-dealers.


June 24, 2004 at 06:08 AM · well, from what i've seen they are very different instruments. My teachers nicolo gagliano for instance is very clear, very clean and brilliant sound, very stradlike. The vuillaumes i've heard (well most of them) tend to be a bit more loud and powerful, more robust somehow.

June 24, 2004 at 01:43 PM · Who knows? The Shadow knows....

From what I've seen lately, Preston, you're right. Vuillaumes show no sign of slowing down in their appreciation, mainly because the demand is still high. Everybody wants one, therefore you're going to pay a premium for it, just like being on the waiting list for a new Mercedes SL 55.

With Nicolo Gagliano, at least, prices are still moving upward, although it seems at a slightly slower rate. The trouble with prices, though, is that they're not universally standard. In most large shops, for instance, a Nicolo Gagliano in good shape will probably be around $250-275,000. But I just saw one at a shop that was being offered at $425,000 *gasp*!

As dealers, we always like to see the instruments sell, of course. That's our job. But we also have to keep the prices from going up too fast in too short a time. If they do, then performers get priced out of the market for the instrument and the customer base decreases drastically.

It's fine for instrument prices to go up over time. That happens to everything from a gallon of milk to cars and houses. But if the prices shoot up dramatically in a very short period because a particular maker is "hot", it can be detrimental to the market in the end.

June 24, 2004 at 05:17 PM · gaglianos get even higher than that i hear,

June 25, 2004 at 12:46 AM · Michael,

Thanks for that comprehensive response. Personally, a Vuillaume that is robust and powerful (like the one I play) is preferable to a sweet sounding instrument like many Gaglianos. However, I have played a couple Gaglianos that can absolutly blow you out of your seat (much in the fashion of a Vuillaume) and others that have a carrying power that is unexpected given the sweet almost tender voice they have under your ear. They certainly are some VERY fine Gaglianos. For me, I like the idea of my violin being a bit newer (1845 is not all that old afterall in violin years) and having a very healthy life span ahead of it. Of course there are 300 year old instruments out there that are nearly mint condition (as rare as that may be) but what a HUGE responsibility to keep them that way. When I am traveling and performing I want to feel more like I'm traveling with a friend rather than with my Grandmother.

Perhaps these are a couple reasons why Vuillaumes are becoming so desireable.


June 27, 2004 at 02:23 AM · vuillaume is French and not italian. so they stay french and not more... sorry for vuillaume lovers...

June 27, 2004 at 04:49 AM · What do you mean by that?

Just because a violin is Italian does not mean that it is a spectacular instrument. Anyone who thinks otherwise is greatly disillusioned and knows very little about great instruments.

I mean, is a Vuillaume a Strad? By no means, and it will never be priced as high as a Strad. Does that mean that it will not sound as good as a Strad? No, absolutley not. There are many Strads out there that are awful in comparison to a great Vuillaume and any great performer who knows anything about great tone would pick the better sounding instrument even if it's a Vuillaume (unless they are in for collecting...but that's another issue.)


June 27, 2004 at 03:38 AM · Out of all the violin makers, I mean all of them, my favourite maker has always been Maggini, and those violins which have been modelled on his. (At the moment, I am actually in the search for a Maggini Model) J.B. Vuillaume did an absolutely gorgeous model of a famous Maggini, which was listed in the Hill Brothers book on Maggini. Seeing as how there are only sixty Magginis in existence, this is quite a rare occurance. However, this copy is available for sale for $75,000 right now. I have included a link to the page I found it at:


June 27, 2004 at 04:37 AM · What price range are you looking for? I'm selling my Maggini model Paul Bailly right now.


June 27, 2004 at 04:37 AM · More than one dealer has told me point blank that the country of origin alone is a factor in the price of an instrument. So, oddly enough, if Vuillaume had moved to Italy and made violins there, they would be worth more now. The same logic (if you want to call it that) goes in reverse for the various Italian makers who moved to Brazil (or is it Argentina? -- I forget). Their violins are worth less than they would have been if they'd stayed in Italy. I've seen three Vuillaume Maggini copies -- all at $75k. Moennigs had a nice one. But, alas, it is sold.

June 27, 2004 at 04:47 AM · Of course country is a determining factor in an instrument...but it does not equate tone quality by any means. Some countries have a better track record for producing fine violin makers and fine violins...but that's all.


June 27, 2004 at 09:16 AM · Greetings,

Bailly violins are great. Snap it up Max.



June 27, 2004 at 12:34 PM · Hi Preston. oh yes the Bailly is also a good instrument. Was yours build more feminine or masculine? I tried one vuillaume before and it had a powerful sound.

June 27, 2004 at 06:27 PM · I would say it is built more Masculine. It is a large and powerful instrument (which suited me fine when I was still playing it...as I am 6'2" with long arms).


June 27, 2004 at 09:40 PM · As good as Bailly's instruments are, I have to give my respect to Derazey. I've seen two violins of his now that would pass for Vuillaume if it weren't for the original label, and they're about 1/4 to 1/3 the price. They sound better than Bailly, in my opinion -- Bailly was always a little _too_ French.

June 27, 2004 at 10:27 PM · True, and Derezay is priced accordingly in comparison to Bailly.


June 27, 2004 at 10:55 PM · i know somebody who picked up one for 6k, the man he bought it from was an idiot obviously.

June 28, 2004 at 01:50 AM · Well, there's Derazey and there's Derazey. One of the reasons that Derazey's prices have stayed low is that his son Justin began producing commercial instruments using the same stamp that his father used. They are student-level violins, worth about what your friend paid, Owen.

That stigma stuck with the Derazey name, dragging down the price of Derazey. It's only recently that the best example have begun to go up in price, as people have recognized the quality of the father's work.

June 28, 2004 at 04:44 PM · I think that violins by Vuillaume and his best wrokmen are great. In order to make great violins, it is necessary to be able to examine a lot of violins by the great makers, and Vuillaume probably had access to more great violins than any other maker. I have great Guarneri copies by Vuillaume and George Gemunder that may be available.

June 28, 2004 at 11:53 PM · Greetings,

i don`t know what she is playign now, but Hilary Hahn was using a beautiful Viullaume early on in bher career,



June 29, 2004 at 01:04 AM · As of last year she was still using the Vuillaume. We had a pleasant chat about our violins as they were made within 2 years of eachother.


June 29, 2004 at 02:09 PM · Hilary is still using her beloved vuillaume this year.

Besides, if one has J&A Beare certificate, would that be an advantage?

Hay people, if you were me, two violins of 2 major powerhouse certificates from JA Beare / Bein Fushi, which one would you choose if they are of similar qualities?

June 29, 2004 at 04:43 PM · Well, with all respect to Bob Bein, I would have to say that Charles Beare's certificates are more universally accepted and respected. That being said, it never hurts to have a second opinion. Even though Machold certificates are well respected, with instruments of this age we like to have older certs and appraisals that help establish provenance and history for the instrument. Especially with something like Vuillaume, where in some cases there are still original bills of sale from Vuillaume himself floating around with certain instruments.

This illustrates a problem within the industry that I've been thoroughly against. There are some people who will hold back an old certificate on an instrument from the buyer and issue a new one. This practice has the effect of raising the expertise profile of the seller, because he accurately identifies the instrument, without telling you that he's just reiterating what Emile Francais said in 1936, for instance.

July 1, 2004 at 11:14 AM · Very well put, but should that be the case if not a high-rate vuillaume?

How about some other like a modern Italian, perhaps a

Marino Capicchioni or Oddone etc? Would that have any different because one has more say in the violin industry?

July 1, 2004 at 06:04 PM · hey, i've just played a fagnola, scarampella, vuillaume, antoniazzi, a mod italian (1860's), bernardel (gustave), and a guarnerius(peter of venice), in the last couple months and they are all so different and distinctive. it's really like comparing apples and oranges. it is a matter of taste, however, there is a paradigm-- of course, the guarneris are the epitome--(i'm a guarneri fan myself, as opposed to the strads- i've played one of the world's top strads; beautiful, bit not a guarneri. i hear many concertizing fiddlers are switching from strads to guarneris. but back to the lesser vlns-- i've played many vuillaumes and there are discrepencies as to the quality of tone w/each- some are way too viola sounding for my taste and others are too nasal- frenchy, if you will. i own a few of the aforementioned violins and have previously owned a paul bailly, which was very beautiful- my only real complaint was the clarity issue and lack of myriad of colors that we all look for as pros- basically, we're all looking for the complexity of a qurneri or strad w/ the price tag of a ... ya know what i mean, as performers and not zillionaires lookng for an investment to lock up in a vault. it's so sad to think about as we all know. i liken it almost to hoarding food blatantly in front of starving children. i diverge--some scarampellas seem beautiful but a little thin, some antoniazzis seem a bit too deep- viola like, and some fagnolas sound strad like- beaut. bernardels are skyrocketing price wise because they are beautiful instruments and powerhouses- one has blown many (up to 8 times its price) out of the water in major concert halls. it's on par with some vuillaumes, if not better, tone and power wise. i've performed concerti on some of the above in major halls throughout and can attest to the projection, sonority, clarity... hope this helps a bit. -m

July 2, 2004 at 02:10 AM · I agree with you fully on Scarempellas. Personally, I've never been impressed by them. Also, I agree with you on guarnerie's...only played one bad one, an Andrea composite.

I've also heard lately that Fagnola's are very comparable, and often more consistant than Vuillaumes. However, I still say, when you find that great Vuillaume, it's a real treasure b/c they are absolutely fantastic when you find a good one.


July 2, 2004 at 07:01 AM · For those who compared the Fagnolas and Vuillaumes, what sort of price ranges are we talking about? I have tried some in the 1900-20s on the Fagnolas ranging from 50,000US to 130,000US at the most but only 2 Vuillaumes with staggering prices of

150000 to 170000US!!!

July 2, 2004 at 05:43 PM · Who on EARTH is selling Vuillaume's at that price right now? I've not heard of such a high price ($170,000) for a Vuillaume....you are sure it wasn't a cello? HAHA!

Typically, a Vuillaume ranges in price from as low as $75,000 (rare) to approx. $140,000 for a great one (ie: the Ex-Stern Vuillaume sold for that in auction).


July 3, 2004 at 04:45 AM · They have been offered as high as 175k for Guarneri models... offered, not sold. As far as I know, the highest actual sale price so far has been 155,000, about four months ago or so.

July 3, 2004 at 05:58 AM · Hmmm, that's interesting. After taking mine (it's a guarneri model) into the shop I was told by one of the workers there who often travels to France for aquisitions that there was not a single Guarneri model available in all of France. They are in high demand. Anyway, they are always so nice when I bring in the violin. They really seem to enjoy it.


July 3, 2004 at 06:20 AM · Hello Preston, is yours a Vuillaumed Guarneri? I love to see the photos! Oh, for the Vuillaume I played had a Beare's Certificate, I thought it was a show, close to the 150000 mark, but the other wasn't but from what I recall, the sound from the lesser was way better than the more expensive one!

July 4, 2004 at 01:09 AM · Yes it is, however it is not mine. It's a private loan.


July 8, 2004 at 04:04 PM · If we are looking at violins slightly above or below the value of Vuillaume, which maker are we looking at?

1920-30's Fagnolas would be too bold and not as sweet, then.......?

July 10, 2004 at 03:04 AM · I travel on business and like to visit dealers when I can. Thus, I have gotten to see what a fair number of dealers are chrging for these instruments. I have seen several Vuillaumes. Three Maggini copies at $75k and several (5, I think)Strad copies, which were all between $88k and $110k. But that one going for $110k had its price reduced to $90k before it sold. I heard about this one that went for in the $150s. I was told it was "a special instrument," whatever that means. My theory is that it was owned by someone famous. Also, you never know who the buyer is. If the buyer is an institution with money to burn, they purchase these things and then the dealers turn around and try to get individuals to pay the same price ( I saw this happen once). This is all a prolix way of saying that $170k is a lot for a Vuillaume. Perhaps that was the price at one of the Chicago dealers, who seem to be the kings of overcharging. The people in New York are giving them a run for their money, though. I recently saw an Enrico Cerutti instrument for $190k in NYC. This was $70k more than any of the other three I had seen. I guess the dealers just keep pushing up the prices. Like other middlemen, these people work for the sellers, not the buyers.

July 10, 2004 at 06:58 PM · Hi K G, it had happened to Vuillaume, what about Fagnola, would it be an over-priced maker?

Which maker or origin would you prefer then since you have vast experience on many violins from different dealers....

July 11, 2004 at 03:28 AM · I am no expert,that is for sure. I am just nosey. Fagnolas seem to be about the highest priced modern Itlaian instrument. They definitely go for more than Bisiachs. I heard a good thoery from a knowledgeable person once about why: fagnolas are red, which many people find exotic, and Bisiachs are brown. The rationale for the price difference is probably that sophisticated. I guess Scarampellas are about comparable to Fagnolas. I can't think of anyone else who comes close. I have found the sound of these instruments to be rather thin, though sometimes very cutting, which some people like. I don't seem to be one of them. I prefer Vuillaume's based on my experience, though these things can sometimes sound nasal and unsophisticated, even if they are very powerful. As for prices, Fagnola made some Pressenda copies that I have seem priced at $75k. I've seen I think five other later Fagnolas, that were all in the 90s. But there was one at a Chicago dealer that was over a $100k. I don't know how much because I wasn't interested in looking at instruments that went for that much.

One of the points I am trying to make here is that the typcial buyer has no clue what the "market" is for an instrument. The only way to figure that is to spend a lot of time looking. And even then, things are always changing. But, because the typical buyer has no clue what the market is, the typcial dealer is very happy to make up a price that is out of line and see if he can get the pigeon to eat out of his hand.

July 11, 2004 at 04:20 AM · K G, do you reckon it is still good to put the money on fagnolas, yet I have heard that bisiach is rolling up very quickly over the standard retail price..

As you also classified the sound was thin, could you elaborate a bit more? Was it not as board and thick like guarneri or else?

July 11, 2004 at 02:29 PM · To answer your question, the "shop made" JB Vuillaumes are not authentic. They are typically made in Czech Republic and have a "JB Vuillaume" label or the "VUILLAUME" brand on the top of the back. They are basicallly junk.

Now a real Vuillaume, $75k to $140k...that's a different story. They can be quite wonderful.

July 13, 2004 at 04:16 AM · Carl:

Again, I'm no expert. But, I think that if you buy a nice Fagnola, you are likely to get reasonable price appreciation. Bisiachs are probably OK, too. I saw two for $85k in New York recently. That was $20k higher than anything I'v ever seen. Of course, they were still for sale.

One thing about buying violins as an investment is that they are highly illiquid. YOu can ask any price you want, but if no one buys it, the instrument isn't worth much. And one can easily wait years to sell a violin. I'm not sure if there are better investments than, say, a good mutual fund. But, these Fagnolas and Bisiachs are getting a lot of play from the dealers.

As for tone, you really need to try some yourself. It is so subjective, which is why sound has nothing to do with price. It has seemed to me that Fagnolas have kind of a small tone that lacks depth. But I'll bet there are others who don't agree.

July 13, 2004 at 05:56 AM · Thanks to all who responded to this thread and my queries. This topic has certainly generated much interest and maybe we should continue with it?

August 19, 2007 at 05:24 PM · you might want to look in the archives:


some interesting info about Vuillaume from Gennady Filimonov.

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