Violin Joseph Hel, 1884: Is it an original Hel?
I have recently bought a very good violin with the label of Joseph HEL, Luthier à Lille. The instrument was previously owned by the Bayer group, the makers of aspirin. It had been in their possession for decades, when sold.
The year on the label is somewhat obscured, but could read 1884. The violin is made to resemble a Guarneri. The instrument is not certified to be original, but has nonetheless been estimated and was subsequently insured at quite a good prize. Its quality has been praised by violinists and violin makers here in Düsseldorf and thus might very well support the hypothesis that it was made by Hel himself.
Naturally now I am curious to find out whether it is an original Hel or just a copy.
I'm looking for someone, who owns a (certified) Joseph HEL maybe even from 1884. This might be the same year my violin was made, if I read the label correctly. That is the only time, Hel labled himselve as "Luthier du Conservatoire de Lille".
Ich would like to know is whether this violin is stamped in addition to being labeled, because I have found the following description of a typical Joseph Hel instrument:
Joseph HEL instruments are stamped to the outside lowest rib, under the button J. HEL à Lille.
or J. Hel stamped two times on both side of the lowest rib joint.
In 1884 Hel had not yet won his international gold medals, so maybe he had not yet seen the need to stamp all his instruments. Also, it might well be that he stamped the Stradivarius, but did not stamp the Guarneri, because he produced only a few and might have been less convinced of their quality.
Thank you for your help.
Gerhard - if nobody here is able to help I suggest you join and open a thread on maestronet.com where they give detailed instructions on how to post pictures of your instrument. The amati.com auction site will also give you a free evaluation, even if you've no intention of selling.
I second that notion, no one here is really qualified or willing to appraise your violin but on maestronet there are experts that may give a very informed opinion.
Not all genuine Hel violins are stamped. I haven't handled many but I've been told began using a stamp towards the end of his career.
Per Martin's comments: Your best bet is a luthier who is familiar with Hel's instruments, rather than an individual owner. That person will know what distinctive characteristics to look for across the body of Hel's work.
I googled luthier dusseldorf and there are 2 in Dusseldorf. In Bonn the well known maker Greiner has a shop. Probably a good idea would be to get a verbal opinion from one of these.
According to John Dilworth's brief biography on Amati.com, Hel's instruments are "sometimes branded above the endpin: ‘J. Hel à Lille’."
Jean Jaques Rampal in Paris is considered to be one of the top experts on French string instruments.
No, the original hell is spelled with to 2 l.
Regarding steve's suggestion, i think will not work. In my experience, amati.com never returned my requests for evaluation.
That's odd - I've used their services several times and found them to be very helpful. On the last occasion one of their directors agreed to meet me personally (I happened to be in their area) to hand over a violin I'd just successfully bid £500 for!
How much did you pay for it? I hope it wasn't very much. Doesn't a genuine Hel go for like $50K or something?
Thanks everyone for your helpful replies. It is a very interesting piece of information that Hel did not stamp all his instruments and that there is an unstamped Stradivarious model out there.
Because Scott, he did and he did. And Gerhard, as someone above said, this is not the place to get the information you desire. Surely there is someone in your country -- probably reasonably nearby -- that could better help you in your search. Or, as Hendrik mentioned, it might be worth a quick trip to Paris. Go in the spring, have a good time and good luck!
No, I am not a doctor. In fact, I am a teacher of philosophy and physics, but my school is not far from Leverkusen. I have been playing in the orchestra for 30 years now.
Sounds like you have a good playing and sounding violin, that's half the battle.
I suppose one could argue that a $50,000 instrument is "good value" just because another one is $250,000. But a Hel is not a Vuillaume, is it?
Obviously a Hel is not a Vuillaume. However in the violin market one tends to find that a rising tide floats similar boats.