Violin by Jean Baptiste Vuillaume, Paris, ca. 1871 [Full strung instrument, front]. Performing Arts Reading Room, Library of Congress.
A violin and a bow, made by Jean Baptiste Vuillaume in1871, and owned by James Corbett French, was donated to the Music Division in 2000 by his widow, Mildred B. French. French, a professional violinist, tenor soloist, and voice teacher, collected violins as a hobby. A multi-talented musician, he appeared in concert, theater, symphony, and radio in Minnesota, Chicago, and Minneapolis, and toured with NBC. French recorded for CBS records and the CBS radio orchestra. He wrote about Egypt and published the book It Began in Egypt in 1953. French eventually became curator at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and Planetarium in San Jose, California.
Vuillaume's violin bears two labels. The first label reads Jean Baptiste Vuillaume a Paris / 3 rue Demour-Ternes; the second label reads M-493 // with the number 2827 written in pencil inside in two places. The instrument is the Amati model, often made by Vuillaume. This violin yields a powerfully rich and warm sound.
The top of the violin is made of two pieces of spruce; the back is of two pieces of maple. The purfling appears to be of black ebony strips with a light fruitwood center. The varnish is of an orange brown over golden ground.
The instrument was given by French's widow with the hope that it would be used in performance. To that end, the Music Division loaned the violin to Nurit Bar-Josef, concertmaster of the National Symphony Orchestra, for an extended period starting in the 2003-4 concert season.