Violin by Paul Bailly, Paris, France, 1887

 
 
 
 


Description — Charismatic
Every time I look at this Bailly I'm mesmerized by the magnificent bird's eye maple. From what I've read, that rare type of wood is dense and fragile, perhaps that's why the maker left the back very thick (5.4 mm in the center). This one is unbelievably beautiful. Between the "eyes," the figure draws silky diamonds, almost like quilted maple. The two plates of the back are matched with talent and intelligence: the maple movements flowing and bubbling from one side to the other, without any eyes/knots in the soundpost area.
The maker signed and dated the violin inside the back.
Workmanship reveals mastery of technique with elegance and force of character. The upright, Guarneri-style f-holes look at us with an attitude, compound by the scroll edges and rib joints picked out in black, and big, fluid purfling. Arches are moderate, rising organically but confidently to a nearly flat middle, just as you would expect from a fine 19th century French violin.

Tone — Soulful
In this violin, projection happens through glitter (instead of percussive power like many instruments) as though a fast vibrato was incorporated into the tone, sparkling, sizzling, spinning — not unlike the bird's eye figures. I'll dare to say this violin offers the ideal tone: mellow under the ear yet very loud, happy in character although very deep, full-bodied yet agile, lovely and consistent in all its registers, open yet well-contained, with punch but never aggressive, both bright and warm, extremely complex but round. The dynamic range is huge, with captivating colors throughout. It's almost difficult to produce a dull tone on this instrument, every note sustains attention with expressive fervor. I usually don't believe in this, but... Occasionally I've had the impression this Bailly was trying to tell me how to interpret the music, "I've played this before, let me show you."

The violin bears its original label, with part of Paul Bailly's vitae printed on it. The year's last digit and violin number are in his hand.
Maker — A Disciple of Vuillaume
Paul Joseph Bailly (1844-1907) was born near Mirecourt, the French violin-making capital, but went to Paris to study with the best. After his internship with Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, the latter hired him to work on special projects. Some authors believe the famous Vuillaume violin "golden pheasant" of 1862 (among others) was in reality made by Paul Bailly. Within the years 1869-1898, Bailly traveled a lot, working and winning competitions in a multitude of cities, countries and continents. Please look at the reference books for details. Several of his children worked with him, which explains how more than 2000 instruments came out of his shop. Interestingly it is a daughter, Jenny, who inherited his business, one of the first professional female violin makers.

Some peculiarities of this strong scroll include a very closed throat ending with a marked angle up from the pegbox. The volutes are not hollowed much, but the middle area of their first turn is oddly concave. The pegs have a conical shaft.

Bibliography
More about Paul Bailly:
Measurements & Data
Maker: Paul Joseph Bailly (1844-1907)
Made in: Paris, France
Year: 1887
Number: 465
Back Length: 359 mm *
Upper Bouts: 169 mm *
Middle Bouts: 113 mm *
Lower Bouts: 206 mm *
Stop Length: 195 mm
Rib Height at Neck: 30 mm *
Rib Height at Endpin: 31 mm *
Thickness of the Top: 3.9 mm
Thickness of the Back: 5.4 mm
F-hole Length: 78.4 mm *
Distance Between F-holes: 41.5 mm *
Distance Edge-Purfling: 4.5 mm
Scroll Width: 40 mm *
Weight: 420 grams
Label:
10 Médailles Or, Vermeil, Argent et Bronze
à Paris, Sydney, Melbourne, etc.
465    PAUL BAILLY    (P.B)
LUTHIER
Ancien Élève de J.B.VUILLAUME, de Paris
47, rue de Trévise  PARIS  Année 1887

Label Translation:
10 Medals Gold, Vermeil, Silver and Bronze
in Paris, Sydney, Melbourne, etc.
#465    PAUL BAILLY    (P.B)
VIOLIN MAKER
Former Student of J.B.VUILLAUME, from Paris
47, Trévise street  PARIS  Year 1887

Inscription: To the back,
"N° 465
Paul Bailly
Paris 1887
".

Condition: Some wear to the varnish and edges, back middle joint partially reglued, otherwise finely preserved. No cracks. Original neck.
Restoration: Béatrice de Haller, Carouge, Switzerland, 2015.
Certificate: Gilles Chancereul, Paris, France, 2014.

* measured with a caliper

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