c.1730 Jacques Boquay 4/4 Violin

This is a customer's instrument that will be up for consignment soon and arrived at the shop in a fine, restored state. The bridge it came in with was setup for very high action on the G&D strings (though it was a nice old Aubert Deluxe model) so I swapped it out for a (nice old, but unmarked) spare that I recut for faster playability that came in the case as well.

It's, presumably, nearly 300 years old, built by Jacques Boquay in Paris in 1730. Judging by construction and comparison to other examples as well as repairs and modifications over time, I get the feeling it's a "real deal" instrument. Here's the kicker, though -- how does one know for sure without contacting a giant auction house or fine violin shop?

Well, that's why there are so many pictures, here!

We can start by comparing the instrument visually to known examples from recent auctions or seller websites. Here (click) is one for sale that is relatively similar... there is also another on this page towards the bottom... Christie's has this one as well as this one... Sotheby's has this one... and finally, snooping in on forums brings some further information here.

So, visually? This checks out. It has the same sort of characteristic larger upper bout as well as the similar smoother f-holes with very small, almost nonexistant, notches in their middles.

The scroll and pegbox is grafted onto the neck very nicely and the peg shaft holes have been filled  and re-drilled before. Whoever did the last work on this violin did a nice job -- the pegs hold and turn beautifully.

Nut, board, tailpiece, and pegs are all ebony as usual.

There are a number of repaired hairline cracks to the top. In addition the back seam has cleats on its upper and lower portion. Whether these were added when it was made or later is unknown. The finish has certainly been touched up at some point as well, but the patina is excellent. This certainly looks old enough.

The strings on this violin are "within the past decade" Thomastik Dominants. They had some tarnish on them and had an almost "steel core" sound when I first tuned it up and tried it out, but after a bit of quick polishing with 0000 steel wool they play and sound nice again with that typical warm and sweet tone Dominant-users are used to.

The top and back have a somewhat dramatic arch to them -- something many folks familiar with older French-school violins are used to.

 The tailpiece is in good shape.

 Note the leather pad for protection of the edge from the bow.

A couple of the repaired cracks.

 As I said, the patina is just gorgeous.

 Here you can see those filled and redrilled/reamed peg holes better.

 Here's the peg box graft -- for those not in the know, by that I mean that the neck and box are two pieces joined together.

 Here are some telltale signs of old repairs at the neck area.

There are a few repaired hairline cracks on the sides as well.

 The back is very like the other Boquays I've seen online with its lighter medium-colored finish.

Do you see all the repaired? Considering the cuts on either side of the neck it's more than likely that the neck was replaced -- something we'd want to see considering its age.

 The maple being somewhere between curly and flamed is also indicative of Boquay's wood selection.

More neck area details.

One can see how much work has been done at the tailpiece area.

Here's the label, which is awfully "right." The instruments from his time at this address are considered his better builds, as well. I'm guessing on the "1730" considering the chickenscratched last digits.

One thing possibly counting against this instrument is the suspect second label (or at least old glue-area) behind the Boquay one we see.

OH, and in addition to the paper label, I missed another detail -- this has an auction label in the other f-hole's interior rear -- that simply states 8313.

At the peg box, "61" is scratched inside.

So, after all those pics, I still haven't described the tone or feel or anything else. So...? Yes, it sounds great. It's not really full in your face mellow or crisp and bright -- it's somewhere inbetween, kind of silky but with excellent control and projection. It makes a fantastic fiddle as double stops are articulated and rich without being mushy at all.

Quite nice!

And yes, serious offers will be considered. Fire away.


Anonymous said...

This looks almost exactly like a Jaques Boquay I picked up at an auction as well. Thanks for the article. Wasn't sure if mine was a fake or not. Needs some restoration, though.

Anonymous said...

I too have a Bocquay note the spelling also Paris is spelled with what looks like a 3 ( Pari3 ) and the last thing I noticed ( mine has a one piece back ) not sure what to make of that ??