The Messiah

1716, Antonio Stradivarius

Gallery 44


Focus on the Object

About the Object

The Violin

The Messiah was made by Stradivarius in Cremona in 1716. His name, the date of the instrument and the place of manufacture are written on one of Stradivarius's labels, glued down inside the sound-box. It remained in the family workshop until 1775 when it was sold by his son, Paolo, to an Italian collector, Count Cozio di Salabue. From Salabue, it passed to a dealer, Luigi Tarsio, who used to boast of his wonderful instrument to his friends in Paris but never showed it to them. Once when Tarisio was speaking about it, the violinist, Delphine Alard, said : “Your violin is like the Messiah: we wait for it constantly and it never appears!”. This is how it was given the name by which it has been known ever since. When Tarisio died in 1854, it was bought from his heirs by the maker, Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, and was restored by him. The carved tail-piece by which the strings are attached to the body was made for it by Vuillaume. It shows the Nativity of Christ, a reference to the coming of the Messiah. The pegs by which the strings are adjusted were added at the same time. Otherwise, the instrument is in wonderful condition. It has been very rarely played in its long history and has suffered none of the wear which is common to nearly all old violins. As a result, the varnish preserves its original orange-brown colour and the black paint along the edge of the scroll and peg-box has not worn away with handling.