HAZU Glasnik br. 2 - page 47

GLASNIK HAZU |
45
BLAGO KNJIŽNICE, ARHIVA I ZBIRKI HAZU
he famous violin ”the King”, built by the great
Italian violinmaker Bartolomeo Giuseppe
Guarneri, is preserved and kept at the Croatian
Academy of Sciences and Arts in Zagreb. Along
with the great Walcker organ, built in 1855 for
Zagreb Cathedral, it is the most precious music
instrument kept on Croatian soil.
In the series of five violinmakers from the
Guarneri family – the most famous of all north-
ern Italian instrument builders along with the
Stradivari and Amati families – special atten-
tion attaches to Bartolomeo Giuseppe Guarneri,
nicknamed
del Gesù
(1698–1744). In the scope of
his activities, the building of string instruments
reached one of its peaks never to be reached
again. Available data tell of del Gesù’s appren-
ticeship in his father’s workshop until the age
of 25 and of a relatively short 14-year period be-
tween 1730 and his premature death in 1744 as
the era of his flourishing, during which he built
a large number of violins; between 120 and 150
specimens have survived. It is interesting to know
that del Gesù’s instruments began to be appre-
ciated in Italy only after Napoleon’s invasion of
Northern Italy and French interest in them. In
this revival of his reputation at the beginning of
the 19
th
century, special credit goes to brothers
Francesco and Carlo Mantegazza – violinmakers,
restorers and dealers in music instruments from
Milan, as well as to the famous violin virtuoso
Nicolò Paganini.
Among the preserved and identified del Gesù
instruments, the violin called
the King
occupies
a special place. It was willed
to the Croatian
people
(as it is literally stated in the will) by its
last owner, Croatian-American violin virtuoso
Zlatko Baloković (1895–1965). On 6 April 1969, it
was entrusted to the Yugoslav (today Croatian)
Academy of Sciences and Arts in Zagreb to guard
and protect.
The King’s
making was dated to 1735,
but the first mention of it could not be traced be-
fore the 1857 auction of the Goding Collection at
Christie’s of London. However, rumours exist that
instrument builder Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume and
merchant John Hart had previously owned it. At
this auction, it reached 20 percent (£ 240) more
than the price of one Stradivari instrument.
The
King
was then bought by the French aristocrat
(Vicompte) de Janzé, and was later owned by
John Adam, David Laurie, Baron Knoop, and Eric
A. Rose. It was eventually bought in the 1930s by
Zlatko Baloković’s wife Joyce Borden Baloković,
who established the
Zlatko and Joyce Balokovic
Scholarships
foundation in 1966 at the Academy
in Zagreb.
It is not known who gave the violin the epithet
the King
(possibly Vuillaume himself), but this in-
strument was included in the exhibition
The Violin
Masterpieces of Guarneri del Gesù
, prepared and
mounted at the New York Metropolitan Museum
of Art in 1994, which exhibited del Gesù’s 25 best
instruments on the occasion of the 250
th
anni-
versary of the great builder’s death. It was then
proclaimed to be among the best, along with
Paganini’s favourite del Gesù violin nicknamed
the Canon
and some others. According to expert
analysis, it is corpulent, bold in its form, its edges
are broad and well preserved, the corners are
long but delicate, with regal sound holes, with
the flames of the back directed downwards, and
the varnish is fine and intense.
The King
was thoroughly restored in 2010 at
a workshop in Cremona. It has been regularly
played on festive occasions ever since. It is kept
in a safeguarded vault, in a special glass case
equipped with alarm system, autonomous de-
vices for maintaining microclimatic conditions,
and additional cold light equipment.
BARTOLOMEO GIUSEPPE
GUARNERI’S VIOLIN
THE KING
AT THE CROATIAN ACADEMY
OF SCIENCES AND ARTS
T
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