Paul Bailly (year 1906)

August 23, 2006 at 12:01 AM · I am interested in buying a violin that I could keep for quite some time (in other words, an "expensive" one"). I have visited three violin shops on the mainland, and the shop I preferred was Robert Cauer.

In his studio, I found a lovely violin made by Paul Bailly (year 1906) who I'm told was a former pupil of J.B. Vuillaume.

Does anyone have any information on this maker? All information is apreciated!

Oh, and the price is listed at $20,000. Is it worth it? or should I look for something else...perhaps an italian?

Replies (15)

August 23, 2006 at 02:06 AM · Paul Bailly is listed in several texts... so you shouldn't have too much trouble finding more information about him. He was a prolific maker who worked in Vuillaume's shop (as is mentioned on his labels) and moved around a bit. He worked in Paris & several other cities in France as well as London... and I've seen two labels from the Caussin family in Vosges crediting Bailly with assistance.

It's difficult to comment on the value of a specific instrument without having a chance to examine it (and Bailly's work quality varied a bit), but the price Robert C. is asking does not sound out of line at all for a nice one.

As for "what you should do"... I really don't think anyone can tell you that... Do you like the violin?


J. S. Holmes Fine Violins, LLC

August 23, 2006 at 01:52 AM · Bailly was a very prolific maker, and his work varies wildly. Some of it is beautiful, some just OK, and some not all that interesting. In general, though, even the ugly ones sound good. He's very identifiable, so authenticity shouldn't be a problem. And you're working with someone who's got a great reputation. Overall, if you like the violin, I think you're fine.

August 23, 2006 at 01:14 PM · Michael - I have a violin with a Bailly label that over the years has given rise to debates concerning authenticity. What is it about Bailly that makes him so readily identifiable? What does one look for?

August 23, 2006 at 01:45 PM · C'mon, that's not a fair question. My brother is 5'10", blonde, with blue eyes, about 190#. Go out and find him by using only that description, and when you do, we can talk about what makes a violin identity.

The more interesting issue would be who's unclear about your violin? Someone knows--you may not have found the right person, under the right circumstances. I hate to say it, but a lot of expertise is tailored to the question of "are we buying, or are we selling?", and what's said by the "expert" may differ, depending on the answer to that question.

I don't mean to say it's a piece of cake, and that every Bailly is identifiable, and that every one sold as one is legit, but that as a maker he's one of the ones that there are many fewer difficulties with, so the risk of buying one is less, in the overall, if you get it from the right person (primarily, someone with a legitimate shop who stands behind what he sells.) If you get it from a car trunk in an alley (or from the musical equivalent: uncertified, from a fellow player) good luck.

[I want to qualify that last comment: the worst burns I've seen in this business have been from sales between musicians, not from dealers. You wouldn't believe the total trust musicians have in each other when it comes to a topic neither knows anything about. It boggles the mind.]

What a business, eh?

Probably I should stop blathering on and on . . . .

August 23, 2006 at 01:58 PM · to add to what has been already well said...........

Bailly was one of many workmen in the Vuillaume shop who indeed was very prolific.

I have seen many J.B.Vuillaumes which he made as well as his own fiddles, and his work did vary a lot depending on if he had one glass or two or three (I guess). LOL

August 23, 2006 at 08:22 PM · Tom, to continue on something Michael was too kind to say...

I don't know all those who you've shown your instrument to (and I'm not sure I want to know), but: Since Bailly's work is known an relatively easily IDed by those of us who deal with them, it may simply be that your violin isn't a Bailly... and the lack of agreement is by those who don't deal with them regularly... or some of those who have looked at the instrument just don't feel like telling you it's not one. :-)

The reverse is also possible... of course... but I find that the most usual scene that develops when an owner has an instrument that is difficult or impossible to identify (as many are), is that they keep seeking origin until they find a story they like (I'm not saying that's what you're doing... I don't know you... but it's a behavior I see regularly).


August 24, 2006 at 01:00 AM · My daughter has a violin, also made in 1906. It was made by E M Fitzwater. Any opinions of this maker?

August 24, 2006 at 02:48 AM · "My daughter has a violin, also made in 1906. It was made by E M Fitzwater. Any opinions of this maker?"

Ohio maker, wasn't he? I think he worked for an instrument making firm there if memory serves me... I've seen his name in only one instrument (that found it's way up here to Michigan). The name was memorable, but the instrument I saw didn't make much of an impression on me (I recall little about it).


September 1, 2006 at 01:54 PM · I think so. He was head of violin department at Goulden Company. One of his 3/4 violin is on display at a small musical instrument museum in California.

My daughter's violin generally has mellow dark sound. The E string has always been a bit bright since she got it three years ago when she was 9, with the G string producing solid sound. With her more powerful bow arm these days, the G string began to BOOM. Someone mentioned that it may not be well balanced, but most professional violinists who tried her instrument said that it was pretty good. Thanks for your reply.



September 1, 2006 at 04:29 PM · I have an 1891 Paul Bailly and it is a magnificent. It has a lot of power and I find it easy to project with it. The sound is very rich on the G string and clear and beautiful on the E. I bought it two years ago and I've been happy with it ever since. Mine was priced at $25,000, so one priced around twenty is very reasonable.

Yes, it is fairly easy to ID a Paul Bailly. The label in my violin is easy to identify as authentic with his signature and all. I've never heard of one being hard to identify, but that could be for many reasons ranging from bad maintenance of the instrument and weathering of the ink to the label being unauthentic.

If you like the instrument, go for it! It's a big but well-worthwhile investment. Make sure you get a chance to play it in a small space that is live, a space that is dry, and a large hall, if at all possible. Play for as many people as possible, especially other violinists and your teacher. Good luck!

September 2, 2006 at 01:10 PM · Paul Bailly's work is very good, and they generally sound well too. I have two (!) of his violins, both bought at auction, one from his earlier period, circa 1880, a Messiah Strad replica, and the other from late in his life in the early 1900s, about number 1300, when he was tending to follow a style more of his own, but both are excellent instruments.

Regarding violin prices, why don't you take a look at the "Red Book" prices on the website ? These are auction prices from the last 15 years or so and help you to keep your feet on the ground. Before I paid $20k for a Paul Bailly, I would want it to be a very good one!



September 3, 2006 at 08:30 PM · "Regarding violin prices, why don't you take a look at the "Red Book" prices on the website ? These are auction prices from the last 15 years or so and help you to keep your feet on the ground. Before I paid $20k for a Paul Bailly, I would want it to be a very good one!"

Redbook auction results can often (not always) be helpful, especially IF one has experience with the auctions (you have seen the instruments at the sale) and there are enough sales of the maker in question to determine a trend. Auction results can be quite different than what one would expect to see in a retail showroom, however.

In my opinion, two of the main reasons are:

Auction instruments are not always (are rarely) what I would consider "showroom ready". Often, they require repair and/or setup. Sometimes minor, sometimes not. In a good shop (and "good" is the key), determination of what the instrument requires to perform at it's best is determined and performed. This may be simply a good setup, or more often setup along with some restoration, a neck setting, new bassbar. If one purchases an instrument at auction and wishes to perform these tasks, the expenses (which can add up) involved are on top of the initial cost of the instrument, of course.

Second, although policies of auction houses have changed in favor of the retail type client (some allow short approval periods, etc.), they are not full service shops. Trade ins (not), after purchase service (limited), and personal attention to detail are not the same as in the retail venue.

Profit is made in both venues (many auction houses collect more than the 20% usually charged by a dealer for a consignment), so the "savings" at auction is not always as much as purchasers think... unless the purchaser is pretty well educated about the market and can spot a "deal" when it presents itself. If the purchaser is well informed, there may be a good deal or two to be had.

Careful consideration as to why the instrument is in an auction rather than a showroom is advisable. There are many possible reasons for this... It's a public sale so the results appeal to those handling estates, etc. The sale period is finite. Some items actually sell for as much or more in auction than they would in a retail setting. Larger collections can sometimes be handled more swiftly. The item can be sold "as is"... or the other side: The item is not a good candidate for a retail sale.


September 4, 2006 at 08:46 AM · Jeffrey

I agree auction has its risks - both for the buyer and the seller.

Clearly a dealer has to add a profit margin, and many a violin sold at auction turns up in a dealer's shop at a significantly higher price.

Depends what sort of service etc that you want. Personally, I find that a visit to a violin sale at a reputable auctioneer like Sothebys, Christies, Bonhams, Skinner or Tarisio is like going into Aladdin's cave. They let you try them out, and sure, they're not all in totally good condition, and even some of the famous ones sound pretty awful. But the auctioneers are usually expert and honest and generally if they say it's a Strad or a Paul Bailly, you can be reasonably sure it is !



September 4, 2006 at 07:07 PM · "Clearly a dealer has to add a profit margin, and many a violin sold at auction turns up in a dealer's shop at a significantly higher price."

If the violin being sold was purchased at auction in the first place, yes.

In reality, however, a high % of violins appearing for sale at most shops were not auction purchases. Many are consignments, others are purchased privately.

September 5, 2006 at 09:01 PM · Thanks Jeffrey

And I suppose others are trade-ins the dealer has taken from a client who is "trading up", which is a very useful service.

My observation is that selling at auction is a more established practice in the UK than in the US, although I think Tarisio is causing things to move somewhat.

I certainly agree that selling or buying at auction is not everyone's cup of tea (or coffee) and there will always be a place for good and honest dealers.

There have been a few notoriously dishonest dealers (I can think of one or two in the UK and Italy in the past) and they have perversely played their part in expanding the auction market.


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