Yes it is. The proportions and model are simply divine, the quality
of wood used throughout is superb and the neatness of making is
outstanding. As for the deep red-brown hues of the beautifully
preserved varnish - well these are simply breathtaking.
Unfortunately no. There is however an old repair label positioned
on the bass side of the central back brace which reads 'Repaired
by E. Withers and Co, 31 Coventry Street, London'. Although it
doesn't help identify the instrument it does establish that the
repair was undertaken sometime between 1846 and approximately 1879
when the Withers shop was located at this address.
We were very fortunate to be able to inspect a near identical
instrument that still retains the original John Thomas Hart label.
Yes - when we purchased the instrument the
endpin unit that was fitted to the instrument bore the manufactures
name of Hart & Son
on one side of the brass screw. From the brand we can work out
that this beautifully made and elegant fitting would have been
designed and manufactured some years after the instrument was constructed
when the firm was run by John Hart's son and grandson and called
Hart & Son.
No - you are correct it doesn't - however -
when you consider that the unit had been on the same instrument
for probably in excess of one hundred years - it is not unreasonable
to speculate that George Hart (1839 – 1891) supplied Edward
Withers 1 (1808 -1875) - previously mentioned as a repairer of
the instrument - with one of the latest fittings available for
one of his dad's instruments.
Yes. John Thomas Hart (1805-1874) was a maker, dealer and connoisseur
Yes indeed. In 1875 one of the first really
authoritative books on violin making and makers was published
in London. The volume entitled "The Violin – Its Famous Makers And their Imitators" was
written by George Hart - the son of John Thomas Hart.
Yes exactly. George bought and sold many private collections of
instruments and became - just as his father had before him - widely
recognised as a connoisseur in the field.
"HART, John Thomas, born December 17th 1805, died January
1st 1874. He was articled to Samuel Gilkes in May 1820 of whom
he learned the mechanical branch of his profession. He afterwards
centred his attention upon the peculiar characteristics of the
Cremona and Italian Violin-makers generally, and in a comparatively
brief space of time obtained an extensive acquaintance in that
direction. His unerring eye and powerful memory of instruments
once brought under his notice secured for him the highest position
among the connoisseurs of his time. Commencing business at a period
when the desire to possess instruments by the famous Italian makers
was becoming general among amateurs, and being peculiarly fortunate
in securing an early reputation as a judge of them, he became the
channel through which the greater part of the rare Italian works
passed into England, and it has frequently been said that there
are very few distinguished instruments in Europe with which he
was unacquainted. Among the remarkable collections that he brought
together may be mentioned that of the late Mr. James Goding, the
remnant of which was dispersed by Messrs. Christie and Manson in
1856; the small but exquisite collection of Mr. Charles Plowden,
consisting of four Violins of Stradivari and four of Guarneri,
with other instruments of less merit, the whole of which again
passed into Mr. Hart's possession upon the death of their owner;
and, lastly, a large portion of the well-known collection of the
late Mr. Joseph Gillott, sold by Christie and Manson shortly after
the famous sale of pictures belonging to the same gentleman. This
collection of Violins raised upwards of £4,000. To mention
individually the gems comprised in this array of Cremona's handiwork
would be a difficult task, but among them may be noticed the Guarnerius
Violin known as the "King," which brought 700 guineas;
the Stradivarius Viola, formerly Lord Macdonald's, which sold for
400 guineas; the beautiful Stradivarius Violin now in the possession
of P.Roberts, Esq., &c."
Yes agreed. Also the method of writing is less academic than we
demand today from a reference work on violins and their makers.
Yes. According to the beautifully produced
and authoritative book The British Violin published by the British
Violin Making Association in 2000 (ISBN 0 953471 27) – John
Thomas Hart went on to establish one of the leading violin businesses
of the 19th and early 20th centuries - at 14, Princes Street,
Leicester Square, London.
John Thomas Hart is said to have employed many
of the finest English and French makers of the time. It is known
that he had a close working association with the highly esteemed
violin maker and connoisseur Georges Chanot (1801 – 1883)
of Paris and with J.B Vuillaume. Sadly the names of many of these
makers have not been recorded. These are the ones that we can
- William Valentine (d. ca1877) George
Hart records – "Made
many Double-Basses for Mr Hart, which are highly valued".
Hildalgo Moya and Towry Piper in their book Violin Tone and Violin
Makers published in London in 1916 by Chatto & Windus expand
slightly as follows; "Worked for many years for Hart. A
good repairer. Chiefly known as a double bass maker".
- Charles Harris Jnr. (1791 – 1851) worked
for Hart for a brief period. The British Violin records – "This
must have been in 1827". William Henley in his monumental
- Universal Dictionary of Violin & Bow Makers (Amati Publishing
Ltd 1973) writes; "Workmanship superb and always full of
And - "Among British copyists of the Stradivarius and Amati
outline and arching he stands out beyond them all".
- William Voller (ca1854 – 1933), Charles
Voller (d ca 1935) and Alfred Voller (ca1857 – 1918). The
British Violin records that the highly skilled Voller Brothers
were employed by George Hart in Wardour Street around 1892.
According to the semi-biographical novel - "The Violin Hunter" -
by William Silverman (Published in 1957 by The John Day Company,
N.Y - Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 57-8238) about
the remarkable Italian violin collector Louis Tarisio - when John
Thomas Hart heard that Tarisio had a number of top quality Cremonese
instruments for sale he rushed over to Paris to establish contact
with Tarisio - "... at Vuillaume's place". With him he
took Lott in order to act as an interpreter.
The Double Bassist No42 - Autumn 2007 features an article about
an instrument by John Lott Junior - by Martin Lawrence and Thomas
Martin. The instrument featured is remarkably similar to our own
in a great many ways and is all the more of interest due to the
fact that it is branded HART'S in small capital letters just below
the back button.
Surprisingly little. In the two pages of text John
Hart is only mentioned twice as follows:
- "Conversely, Lott accompanied a number of
the London dealers including Turner and Hart on buying expeditions
- "It was made for John Hart and carries his
brand below the button".
Well - I would have to say it does seem notable
for its absence. The fact that nothing is mentioned about the input
that John Thomas-Hart would have had on an instrument made specifically
for him would also seem to be a bit of an oversight.
At around the age of 14 - after learning the
basic skills of violin making from his father - John Frederick
Lott Jnr. (1804- 1870) became apprenticed at the shop of Richard
Davis (formerly the shop of John Norris and Robert Barnes) where
he worked alongside his older brother - George Frederick Lott.
There are two different accounts as to how long Lott Jnr. stayed
with Davis. The first account puts it at four years while the
second puts it at only a year. Whichever case - it does appear
that in order to make instruments Lott Jnr. obtained wood and
tools from Dodd - where his father worked – and sold the finished instruments through Dodd and
Metlzer until about 1823. Disillusioned with his way of life it
is documented in the semi-biographical novel - "Jack of all
Trades" - written in 1858 by his friend the violin connoisseur
Charles Read that he gave up instrument making for " ... twenty
years of colourful travel". John Lott Jnr. finally returned
to London in the early 1840's and in 1852 established his own shop
at 60 Wardour Street where he developed the art of copying old
master instruments to a very high level.
The notion that John Lott Junior had some sort of hand in the making of this instrument is plausible but uncertain. What is much more certain is that if John Hart didn`t exercise the majority or even a proportional hand in the actual making he certainly exercised a significant amount of control over what the specifications of the instrument should be.
If you were going to commission somebody to
make an instrument for you – it would be prudent to tell them exactly what you
wanted to achieve from that instrument. As it still is today -
this would include discussions about the model, the arching, the
internal work, the carving of the scroll, the type and quality
of the varnish and finishing etc, etc. Before, during or after
you have discussed all these aspects – it is most likely
that a price for the instrument would be agreed and a contract
In comparison to the main London makers own
production from the same period - the instrument featured here
displays features that are less frequently seen. The model in
particular is more "Amatise" in
its arching and it is slightly smaller than classic Lott, Fendt,
Kennedy or Betts work. In addition the particularly neat use of
outside linings is a call back to makers such as Hill, Dodd and
Corsby who were active in London at the beginning of 19th century.
As with the John Thomas Hart instrument that we were delighted
to inspect in London and a second instrument that we have been
able to make comparison with from photographs - this instrument
has been made with a great deal of confidence and flair to an extremely
high standard. The quality of wood that has been used throughout
is superb, the general proportions, the uprightness of the F's
and the incredibly neat, strong and bold making are all simply
delightful. The scroll too is bold and well-carved with a slight
flatness around the volutes. With regard to the peg-box - it is
slightly shorter in length than one would expect from an instrument
of the period. On the other hand the rich red-brown varnish is
simply breathtaking in both its quality and application.
As mentioned previously John Thomas Hart only used the best English
and French craftsmen. With regard to this instrument Hart specified
a top quality instrument and certainly got one.
Yes it does. We are pleased to say that the instrument comes complete
with the glorious full-bodied quality of sound that is associated
with fine English instruments.
This instrument has a great many wonderful qualities that should
score highly on the wanted-list of any prospective player, collector
or investor. The timber used in its construction is beautifully
figured, the proportions are perfect for every type of player,
the instrument is structurally in exceptional condition and the
quality of sound that it produces is full and tonally-rich. With
named mid-nineteenth century London made instruments of this sort
of quality and in this sort of condition now in demand more than
at any other period in history - we firmly believe that this instrument
will gain its new owner a top position in a major city and prove
in time to be a most wonderful investment.
LOB (length of back) - 114.8cm (45.15in)
Width across upper bouts - 53.0cm (20.85in)
Width across middle bouts - 38.0cm (14.98in)
Width across lower bouts - 67.4cm (26.50in)
Depth of lower ribs inc both plates- 22.8cm (8.95in)
Body Stop - 61.2cm (24.10in)
String length - 106.1cm (41.75in)