A good French violin by Jean-François Aldric, c. 1815

This violin by Jean-François Aldric shows his successful blend of a Stradivari model with an overall French aesthetic

By Benjamin Hebbert April 25, 2013

While François-Xavier Tourte was perfecting the modern bow, violin making in France was dominated by three makers: Nicolas Lupot, François Pique and Jean-François Aldric. Lupot, the ‘French Stradivari’, became the most famous. His prominence overshadowed the careers of his contemporaries, and even now his reputation tends to eclipse those who worked closest to him. A great deal is known about Pique’s relationship with Lupot. Aldric’s relationship remains more ambiguous, but his style of workmanship is deeply influenced by his contemporaries, and his relatively rare instruments are often confused with those of Lupot.

Violin by Jean-François Aldric, c. 1815. Photo: Tarisio

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These makers were the first generation to embrace the Stradivari model. They developed their style after Giovanni Battista Viotti took Paris’s Concert Spirituel by storm, attributing his success to his Stradivari violin. The relative scarcity of Stradivari violins in France combined with a sudden increase in demand created the perfect environment for these makers. They thrived through their adoption of this new fashion: Louis Spohr owned a Lupot and wrote in praise of Pique. Olé Bull played a Pique during a lengthy concert tour, and François-Hippolite Barthelemon, leader of the band of the King’s Theatre (a forgotten star of his age), used a violin by Aldric.

The Jean-François Aldric violin shown here was made in c. 1815 and is a characteristic example. It shows his close observation of Stradivari’s work, down to such details as the correct Cremonese pinning on the back. Yet Aldric appears never to have entirely lost the influence of his Mirecourt training, perhaps opting to combine a French aesthetic with that of Stradivari in order to create a more personal model. Hence the edgework is rather heavy, a feature that is common to all three makers. The arching too is bolder than expected for a Stradivari model, creating the upright appearance of the soundholes that distinguishes Aldric’s work. His choice of wood is typical of this group of makers, as is the deep red varnish and the way that it wears to reveal a strong yellow ground.

Aldric’s importance extended beyond his violin making. He was a prolific dealer in Paris and the last of the generation that thrived before the rise of Vuillaume. When Luigi Tarisio made his first visit to Paris in 1827, it was to Aldric that he sold his first consignment of Italian violins, thus marking the beginning of one of the most important chapters in violin history.

Tarisio sold this Jean-François Aldric violin in 2013.

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