Joseph Hel violin, Lille, 1885
Joseph Hel trained with Sebastien Vuillaume, nephew of the famous Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, before setting up his own workshop in Lille in 1865, where he established himself as one of France’s pre-eminent nineteenth century violin makers. Numerous awards and prizes were crowned when he was made an officer of the French Academy in recognition of his great skill and experience. Owned for many years by a good amateur player, this violin has been known to us for many years. It is unlabelled, but the inside of the belly (photographed by us in 1990 during restoration work) has a lengthy, handwritten inscription by Joseph Hel, along with a stamp beside the bassbar, detailing its age and provenance. Papers with the violin also detail the history of the violin since it was first purchased from Hel. A lovely golden-brown oil varnish has developed a soft patina and subtle natural wear patterns, which enhance the beautifully-flamed maple back and well-selected spruce belly. We have always admired the violin for its beautiful, warm, rich tone, its resonance and clarity, and its exquisite workmanship. It will make an excellent orchestral, chamber music and soloistic choice for a professional player.