Lupot and his successors, part 2: Charles François Gand

As Lupot’s successor, Gand also inherited his position of Luthier de la Musique du Roi, but the turbulent political situation in France meant that nothing could be taken for granted

By Gael Francais July 3, 2019

As we saw in part 1, Charles François Gand inherited the workshop of Nicolas Lupot after the latter’s death in 1824. Gand was not only the most talented pupil of Lupot, but from 1811 was also part of his family, having married Lupot’s adopted daughter, Cornelie Squimbre. Lupot had another talented pupil, Sébastien Philippe Bernardel, who left the Lupot shop to open his own successful atelier. However, as we will see later, Bernadel’s two sons, Ernest and Gustave, also became successors to the Maison founded by Lupot by creating partnerships with one of the Gand brothers.

Maison Charles François Gand (1724–1845)

In 1802 Lupot took Gand into apprenticeship for a period of four years and awarded him a certificate of good conduct at the end, mentioning that his training as a violin maker was conducted to his full satisfaction. [1] We know from a written label, ‘Ch. F. Gand fils Luthier a Versailles 1807’, that Gand (later known as Gand père) did not stay with Lupot after his apprenticeship, but instead joined his father, Charles, who was also a violin maker, in Versailles for a period of four years. Then in 1810 Gand opened his own shop at 5 rue Croix des Petits-Champs in Paris. We know that he maintained a good rapport with Lupot and that he frequently visited the shop of Gabriel Koliker, located in the same street.

Charles Francois Gand engraving

Engraving of Charles François Gand. Image: courtesy Gael Francais

We know little about Koliker, beyond that he was mostly a repairer and a merchant and that he had opened his shop in 1783 at rue des Fosses in Saint Germain des Pres. When the French Conservatoire de Musique was inaugurated in 1796, he was the first maker to be appointed Luthier du Conservatoire de Musique. He then moved in 1800 to 24 rue Croix des Petits-Champs. Koliker decided to retire in 1818 and the following year he offered Gand the opportunity to buy his business with all its stock. A contract between Koliker and Gand was signed on August 15, 1819. [2] However, Koliker was not quite ready to end his career. The contract mentioned that Koliker ‘reserved the right to continue to service the Chapelle of the King’. Lupot had also obtained this official function in 1815 (see part 1) and he had to share it with Koliker until the end of his life. Given that Koliker’s stock was, by that time, rather meager and uninteresting, it would be logical to conclude that Gand bought Koliker’s business because the new location consisted of a five-storey building and thus offered more space.

Gand labels 1820–1830

The labels of Charles François Gand from 1820–30. The handwriting is that of his son, Eugène Gand. Photo: courtesy Gael Francais

Gand’s labels from 1820 to 1824 mention the fact that he was a student of Lupot, but do not show any official function or title. This was to change in 1825. His labels for the next five years mention the fact that he had received the title of Luthier de la Musique du Roi et de l’Ecole Royale de Musique (Violin Maker of the King and of the Royal School of Music), having taken over this role after Lupot’s death in 1824. Gand had resumed assisting Lupot with his work after his return from Versailles in 1810 and continued to do so until Lupot’s death. Shortly before, Lupot had taken the necessary steps with the Duc de La Chatre, administrative director of the Royal Chapelle, to transfer his official function to Gand, as his son-in-law and successor. This function, which had been shared between Lupot and Koliker, was not very lucrative and amounted in 1822 to only 600 francs annually for each violin maker. In 1825 Koliker lost this position as ‘second violin maker’ to the Royal Chapelle, leaving Gand as the sole maker to hold this prestigious function until the July Revolution of 1830.

Violin by Charles François Gand père, Paris 1829, the ribs decorated with the words: ‘Premier prix décerné l’an 1832. à J. L. du Conservatoire de Paris.’ Photos: Tarisio

More photos

From 1830–33 Gand’s labels no longer mention the title of Luthier de la Musique du Roi, but instead that of Luthier du Conservatoire de Musique. There was a good reason for this: Jacques Pierre Thibout, another important Parisian violin maker, held the official function of Luthier du Duc d’Orleans. He had received this function from Louis Philippe, the Duc d’Orleans, in 1827. After the 1830 Revolution, Louis Philippe was proclaimed Roi des Francais (King of the French people) which implied that Thibout became de facto the Luthier du Roi. However, in 1832 Ferdinand Paër, the new Director of the Royal Chapelle, decided to reinstate all the people who had worked under Charles X for the Chapelle. This included Gand, who was entrusted with the task of restoring the instruments that had been damaged during the 1830 Revolution. The instruments were part of the famous 1820 order that Lupot had received (see part 1), bearing the Royal Coat of Arms, and which had been finished by Gand. It made perfect sense to restore this function to Gand. However, Thibout did not take it lightly and claimed to be the only one who should hold the official function.

Sylvette Milliot recounts how Paër tried to rectify his blunder by creating two separate positions: one of Luthier Ordinaire, in charge of the maintenance of the royal musical instruments, and the other of Luthier Extraordinaire, in charge of restoring the instruments of the Royal Chapelle and of making additional instruments. [3] The title of Ordinary Violin Maker had in those days a different connotation: it did not mean that Thibout received an ‘ordinary’ function, but rather that he was the main holder of that title and in charge of all aspects of the maintenance of the royal instruments. By contrast, Gand’s function as Luthier Extraordinaire was secondary and largely honorary. This was certainly a huge blow to Gand’s reputation and it did not help repair the antagonism which existed between these two rivals. With a certain amount of bitterness, Gand was therefore forced to share the official function with Thibout.

Gand’s function as Luthier Extraordinaire was secondary and largely honorary. This was certainly a huge blow to his reputation

As stated earlier, the official function of Luthier Ordinaire to the Chapelle offered a meager remuneration. What really counted was the title, which brought prestige to the Maison of a violin maker, and therefore what annoyed Gand was not so much the loss of income, but the fact that he had to share the function with Thibout. On the other hand, Gand not only retained the honorary title, but as Luthier Extraordinaire he was actually in a better financial position as he was able to make new instruments for the Royal Chapelle. In 1824 the price of a new violin including the ornamentation with the Royal Coat of Arms was 243 francs. Gand delivered to the Maison du Roi six such violins in December 1824 for a total of 1,458 francs. [4]

In addition, Gand remained well connected to l’Ecole Royale. This was important because it allowed him contact with most of the concert artists of the time. Repairs and sound adjustments for important professors such as Pierre Baillot or Rodolphe Kreutzer and making new instruments for prize-winning students were among his activities. Collectors from the aristocracy and from the haute bourgeoisie were among his best clients, always eager to invest in a rare and fine instrument. Foreign musicians such as Alexandre Artot, Charles de Bériot or Henri Vieuxtemps frequently visited the Gand shop for a last-minute sound adjustment before a concert, or in search of an exceptional violin, and Gand had certainly plenty of them to offer.

Gand labels 1830–1845

The later labels of Gand, showing his evolving titles. Photo: courtesy Gael Francais

Gand’s last labels include the title of Luthier de la Musique du Roi from 1833 until his death in 1845. We know that most of the decorated instruments from Lupot’s famous 1820 order had been kept in the Tuilleries Palace and were destroyed or damaged during the July 1830 Revolution. Some of the damaged instruments were later skilfully restored or replaced by Gand. He even managed to build a new double bass from the fragments of three destroyed double basses. However, a few instruments had actually survived since they were kept in the small Chapelle of St-Cloud to be played during the summer. Unfortunately during the next Revolution of 1848, when Louis Philippe was overthrown, all the decorated instruments of the 1820 order were destroyed. [5] Only a few vestiges remain in the Musée de la Musique of Paris, Mirecourt’s Musée de la Lutherie and some fragments in private collections.

What can we conclude regarding Gand’s career? We know that as Lupot’s assistant he had gained tremendous prestige with Lupot’s clientele. He was certainly, like his mentor, one of the most respected violin makers of his time. From 1827 Gand maintained a ledger of all business transactions. In August 1842 he created new confidential books called Signalements, in which the most precious instruments were listed, complete with the name of the owner, the purchase price, any repairs, the asking price and the ultimate buyer. The first register mentions up to 1,100 instruments and contains entries until 1896 by the Gand brothers with later entries by Gand & Bernardel. Two more registers followed, which ended in 1918 with the House of Caressa & Francais. [6] These registers are testimony to Gand’s great success, both professionally and financially. Gand died in 1845, leaving two sons, Charles Adolphe (1812–66) and Charles Eugène (1825–92), who were soon to form a formidable business association.

Part 3 examines the Maison of Charles Adolphe Gand and the Gand Frères.

Gael Francais is Jacques Francais’s nephew, Emile Français’s grandson and Henri Français’s and Albert Caressa’s great-grandson. He is the last descendant of one of the most ancient lines of instrument makers in France, going back to 1612.


[1] Gand, Eugene, Luthiers anciens et modernes, Etiquettes 1878, Gael Francais personal archives.
[2] Original contract dated 1819, with inventory conducted by N. Lupot legalizing the purchase of Koliker’s business by Charles Francois Gand (document donated by Gael Francais to the Musée de la Musique, Sept 2018).
[3] Milliot, Sylvette, Nicolas Lupot, Ses contemporains et successeurs, vol. 1, p. 97, JMB Impressions, Messigny-et-Vantoux, 2015.
[4] Ibid, vol.1, p.81.
[5] Gand, Adolphe, original drafts circa 1845, Gael Francais personal archives.
[6] Milliot, Sylvette, Op. cit., vol. 1, pp.119–120.

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