Antonio Stradivari, Cremona, 1704, the 'Betts'


Violin: 40118

Original label

Back: Two-piece with flame very slightly slanting upwards

Top: of fine grain, slightly wider on the flanks; a small original insert was added under the tailpiece

Scroll: of wood similar to back, the curl being slightly narrower

Ribs: of wood similar to back

Length of back: 35.5 cm

Upper bouts: 16.8 cm

Middle bouts: 10.8 cm

Lower bouts: 20.8 cm

There are 20 additional images in the archive which are not available publicly. Please contact us for more information.


Notes:

"On looking at this violin, one cannot but be struck by the beauty of the formation of the long and relatively slender corners. It recalls to our minds some of the happiest efforts of Antonius and Hieronymus Amati, with the addition of a certain grandeur which they lack. The corners are not really longer than those of some of the violins of the preceding years, 1698-1703, but the fact that the bouts are a little more curved, in addition to a pronounced drooping of the corners, especially of the top ones, which are also a little longer than the others, gives that effect. In order that they should not have a too protruding appearance, Stradivari pushed the mitres of the purfling to the extreme limit -- we have seen but few other specimens treated in this way -- and when he failed to get the mitre right up the groove cut out for it, he filled it in with a black mastic, which perfectly completes the appearance he sought to obtain. The uniformity of the outline presents the perfection of symmetry : the full, rounded model swells away from the edge with but a semblance of hollowing round the purfling; the "f" holes, cut with masterly decision and placed in a comparatively upright position, seem to fall naturally into complete harmony with the surrounding features; the head, though cut as Stradivari only knew how to cut it, lacks something,-there is a squareness in the design, the fluting is wanting in breadth, the throat is hesitatingly cut; in a word, it does not rise to the greatness of the occasion.

The beauty of the materials from which this instrument is made leaves nothing to be desired. The back and sides are of handsome maple, with well-pronounced broad curl; the back in two pieces, with the figure slanting from the joint in an upward direction-a feature but rarely met with in instruments of earlier date. The pine of the belly is more open in the grain than hitherto: fine at the joint, but widening out to a full 16th of an inch at the edges."

Antonio Stradivarius: His Life & Work, W. Henry, Arthur F. & Alfred E. Hill, W. Henry, Arthur F. & Alfred E. Hill, Antonio Stradivari: His Life & Work (1644-1737), London


"The "Betts" violin, another masterpiece, made in 1704, is a notable and wonderfully preserved instrument, standing out from the violins made in the adjoining years in a like degree to the " Tuscan," although any affinity with the latter in either tone or design is only indirect. The distinguishing features of the tone are the mellow brilliancy of the quality and the facile articulation."

Antonio Stradivarius: His Life & Work, W. Henry, Arthur F. & Alfred E. Hill, W. Henry, Arthur F. & Alfred E. Hill, Antonio Stradivari: His Life & Work (1644-1737), London


"The 'Betts' is arguably one of the four or five greatest violins in existence today. Its enormous power and limitless range of colour and expressiveness make it, in my opinion, absolutely one of a kind. . . . I would say offhand the Betts has the highest arch [of all Strads], a relatively round arch that goes with that kind of violin."

Elective Affinities: Tributes to Antonio Stradivari by well-known players & experts, Earl Carlyss, The Strad, December, 1987, London


"The Betts has the strangest long corners of any Strad! Look at the upper corners: the corner ends, and then the little black point goes out about 3 mm. I've never seen anything as long as this. . . . It still has about 85% of its real varnish, which is something you don't see on Strads very often."

Guided Tour of the Library of Congress Collection of Stringed Instruments, Robert Bein, Journal of the Violin Society of America, Vol. XVII, No. 2, New York


"Most striking are the long corners and purfling joints and crisply defined edging, still marvelously intact after hundreds of years and multiple owners. What also strikes the viewer is the curiously lopsided placement of the f-holes, like the assymetry of human eyes, which gives its visage an almost human character."

National Treasure, Philip J. Kass, The Strad, November, 2006, London


"The bottom rib is of one piece and has a small knife cut marking the centre line of the ribs against the back. I have seen this tiny, almost invisible knife cut on several Stradivaris which still retain their one-piece bottom rib. . . .

On the left side of the 'Betts' scroll the eye finishes with a string whereas on the right-hand side it finishes with a tiny flat cut similar to that of the Guarneri school. This flat cut is not generally a feature of Stradivari. . . ."

The 'Betts' Strad 1704, Roger Hargrave, The Strad, May, 1989, London

Provenance

1830 - 1852 Arthur Betts
1852 - 1859 John Bone
1859 - 1861 Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume
1861 - 1873 Charles Willemotte
1873 - 1878 Caspar Gottlieb Meier
1878 - 1886 George Hart
1886 - 1887 Duc de Camposelice
from 1891 W. E. Hill & Sons
in 1896 Jacques Zweifel
- Sold by W. E. Hill & Sons
until 1898 W. E. Hill & Sons
- Robert E. Brandt
1898 - 1923 R. D. Waddell
1923 - 1925 Rudolph Wurlitzer Co.
1925 - 1934 John Taylor Roberts
1934 - 1936 Gertrude Clarke Whittall
from 1936 Library of Congress, Washington

Certificates & Documents

  • Dendrochronology report: John C. Topham, Surrey Dating the youngest tree ring to 1662.
  • Certificate: W. E. Hill & Sons, London
  • Dendrochronology report: John C. Topham, Surrey Dating the youngest tree ring to 1662.

Cozio holds copies of many certificates and other documents, some of which are available to view on request. Please contact us if you wish to view a particular document. (Note that we do not always have permission to share documents.)

References

  • 36 Famous Italian Violins, Alex Wasinski, Herman Gordon, New York (illustrated)
  • An Interview with Louis Krasner
  • Antonio Stradivari: His Life & Work (1644-1737), W. Henry, Arthur F. & Alfred E. Hill, William E. Hill & Sons, London, 1902 (illustrated)
  • Antonio Stradivari: His Life & Work (1644-1737), W. Henry, Arthur F. & Alfred E. Hill, William E. Hill & Sons, London (illustrated)
  • Antonius Stradivarius (Balfoort), Dirk J. Balfoort, The Continental Book Company, Stockholm (illustrated)
  • Antonius Stradivarius (Volumes I-VIII), Jost Thöne, Jan Röhrmann, Alessandra Barabaschi, Jost Thöne Verlag, Cologne (illustrated)
  • The Strad, May, 1989, London (illustrated)
  • The Strad, December, 1987, Earl Carlyss, London
  • Journal of the Violin Society of America, Vol. XVII, No. 2, Robert Bein, The Queens College Press, New York (illustrated)
  • How Many Strads? (1999 edition), Doring, Bein & Fushi, Bein & Fushi, Chicago, 1999 (illustrated)
  • Italian Violin Makers (1964), Karel Jalovec, Paul Hamlyn, London (illustrated)
  • Italian Violin Makers (1964), Karel Jalovec, Paul Hamlyn, London (illustrated)
  • Italienische Geigenbauer (1957), Karel Jalovec, Artia, Prague (illustrated)
  • J. B. Vuillaume: Sa Vie et Son Ouevre
  • The Strad, November, 2006, Philip J. Kass, Newsquest, London (illustrated)
  • The Strad, December, 1987, John Dilworth, London (illustrated)
  • Provincial
  • Wurlitzer Collection of Rare Violins, Violas & Bows, Rudolph Wurlitzer Co., New York (illustrated)
  • Sale Book, 1870-1936, The Jacques Francais Rare Violins, Inc. Photographic Archive and Business Records, 1844-1998, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
  • Stradivari, Stewart Pollens, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (illustrated)
  • Stradivarius-Guarnerius del Gesù: Catalogue descriptif de leurs instruments (Facsimile of Gand's notes from 1870-91), Charles-Eugène Gand, Les Amis de la Musique, Spa (illustrated)
  • The Strad, 1909, London, May (illustrated)
  • The Strad, May, 1989, Roger Hargrave, London (illustrated)
  • The Strad, 1923, Towry Piper, London, September (illustrated)
  • The Collections of Musical Instruments (Library of Congress Music, Theater, Dance: An Illustrated Guide) http://www.loc.gov/rr/perform/guide/instru.html
  • The History of Violin Playing from its origins to 1761, David D. Boyden, Oxford University Press, London (illustrated)
  • The Jacques Français Rare Violins, Inc. Photographic Archive and Business Records, 1844-1998, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC (illustrated)
  • The Strad, May, 2010, John Waddle, Newsquest, London (illustrated)
  • The Stradivari Memorial (1977), William Dana Orcutt, Da Capo Press, New York (illustrated)
  • The Violin Book, Bafalon, London (illustrated)
  • Violin Iconography of Antonio Stradivari 1644-1737, Herbert K. Goodkind, Larchmont, NY (illustrated)
  • The Violin: Its Famous Makers and their Imitators, George Hart, Dulau & Co., London (illustrated)
  • Journal of the Violin Society of America, Vol. V, No. 2, Albert Mell, The Queens College Press, New York (illustrated)
  • We Love Stradivari, NHK (illustrated)

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