"Neck and fittings modern. Painted and gilded with the arms, devices, and mottoes of Charles IX, King of France. Label probably a facsimile, dated 1572. Charles IX of France had ordered 38 instruments from Andrea Amati, including 8 "basses," and this instrument is thought to be one of them. The paintings are on the back and the sides, and there are decorations on the peg box as well (the peg box and scroll on this cello are original). On the centre of the back can be seen a crown over the remaining outline of the royal coat of arms, on either side of which is a figure. To the right is a figure of a woman and further to the right, a column, with a crown on top, and still another crown near the bottom of the instrument. On the left side, the figure is no longer visible, and only a portion of the column remains. The figures stand for Piety and Justice. On the sides of the cello were the words 'Pietate' and 'Justicia.' On the bass side only the letters ETA remain visible from the word 'Pietate;' 'Justicia' was on the treble side. Above the 'K' which stands for Charles (Karolus) is a crown, surrounded by other decorative figures on the middle bout.
In each of the four corners of the back is a fleur-de-lis, the symbol of the royal family of France. There is also a fleur-de-lis at the back of the peg box. On the peg box is a fifth peg hole that may or may not have been there originally. (There were five-stringed cellos up to the middle of the eighteenth century.) The instrument has obviously been knocked about a little, but it has been beautifully repaired and is in a healthy condition today. The overall colour is of amber.
The voice of this cello is remarkable. It possesses a beautiful, full-throated sound, vigorous enough to be heard in a concerto. The cello is basically the same as a modern cello, although it has been cut down. In every other respect than size, Andrea Amati made cellos as they are known today."
The Cello, Elizabeth Cowling, B. T. Batsford Ltd., London, 1975
"This [cello] is known as the 'Bridge's viollo.' Its history is romantic, it having been presented by Pope Pius V. to Charles IX. of France, and surnamed the 'King.'"
Old Violins (Haweis), H. R. Haweis, John Grant, Edinburgh, 1910
"The King, as it is now called, is the earliest bass instrument of the violin family known to survive, built perhaps as early as 1538, originally with only three strings. About 1560, it was painted to serve as one of a set of 38 stringed instruments built by Andrea Amati that were painted and gilded for the French court of King Charles IX (d. 1574) - his mother was Catherine de' Medici, a member of the Italian family that directed the destiny of Florence (and, after 1569, of Tuscany) from the fifteenth century to 1737 - with the King's emblems and mottoes. The set was used until it was dispersed during the French Revolution (1789). Only a few instruments from the set have survived.
The King was cut down in size--looking closely at the paintings on the back, one can see that wood was removed down the center, leaving the woman, representing 'Justice,' without a waist or left arm--and 'modernized' by Sébastian Renault, a Parisian luthier, in 1801.
The letters on the bass side spell the word, 'PIETATE' (Latin for piety). The letter, 'K,' in the center rib stands for 'Karolus' (King Charles IX of France)."
"An interesting slip of paper which has accompanied this violoncello for at leas a hundred years, written in French and on the back faintly pencilled words (now inked over), 'Duport had it; a Hollander brought it to Betts 1812, and he sold it to H. W. Curtis (afterwards Sir William Curtis).'"
Chats on Violoncellos, Olga Racster, T. Werner Laurie, London, 1907
Instrument #183 at the South Kensington Special Exhibition of 1872.
Catalogue of the Special Exhibition at South Kensington, England, Carl Engel, Catalogue of the Special Exhibition at South Kensington, England, London
"Decorated cello from the Charles IX set. This example, of which I have seen only photographs, is severely cut down and does not have the original scroll. It retains substantial vestiges of the decoration, however. Western USA, private collection"
The surviving instruments of Andrea Amati, Laurence C. Witten II, Early Music
Instrument #1071 at the Special Loan Exhibition at Fishmongers Hall, London in 1904.
1904 Loan Exhibition, Catalog for the Special Loan Exhibition of Musical Instruments, Manuscripts, Portraits and other Mementos, Fishmonger's Hall, London
"I have never heard a cello, other than a top quality Strad, that actually came close to the sound this one produced. It had ample volume and the most extraprdinary variety of sound."
Guided Tour through the Shrine to Music's Galleries, Charles Beare, The Queens College Press, Flushing, New York, 1991
"In the sale of the instruments of the late Sir William Curtis, on 3rd of May, 1827, Lot 9 was a violoncello by Andreas Amati, Cremonensis, faciebat 1572. . . . It was put up at five hundred guineas, and bought in as two hundred and eighty."
The Painted Amatis: A Critical and Historical Analysis, edited by E. Polanski & Edward Heron-Allen, London, 1894
"Inside is an ink inscription in the upper bouts of the back by the violinmaker, Sebatien Renault of Paris, dated 1801."
Andrea Amati Opera omnia: Les Violons du Roi, Fausto Cacciatori, editor, Consorzo Liutai Antonio Stradivari, Cremona, 2007
"The violoncello is the gem. Its outline is grace itself: the four exquisite curves coincide in one pure and serpentine design. This bass is a violin souffle ; were it shown at a distance it would take the appearance of a most elegant violin ; the best basses of Stradiuarius alone will stand this test. (Apply it to the Venetian masterpiece in the same case.) The scroll is perfect in design and chiselled as by a sculptor; the purfling. is quite as fine as Stradiuarius; it is violin purfling, yet this seems to add elegance without meanness. It is a masterpiece of Cremona all but the hideous sound-hole that alone connects this master with the Brescian school."
Biographical Notice of Nicolo Paganini
"In the sale of the instruments of the late Sir Wm. Curtis, on 3rd of May, 1827, Lot 9 was a violoncello by Andreas Amati, Cremonensis, faciebat 1572. The auctioneer (Mr. Musgrave) stated in the catalogue, " A document was given to the proprietor when he purchased this instrument, stating that it was presented by Pope Pius V. to Charles IX., King of France, for his chapel. It has been richly painted, the arms of France being on the back, and the motto 'Pietate et Justitia' on the sides. The tone of this violoncello is of extraordinary power and richness." This was evidently one of the instruments made for Charles IX. Mr. Hollander
sold it to Sir William Curtis; it was put up for 500 guineas, and bought in at 280."
The History of the Violin and Other Instruments Played On With the Bow From the Remotest Times to the Present, William Sandys and Simon Andrew Forster, John Russell Smith, London, 1864