Montagnana

The double bass made by Domenico Montagnana in Venice 1747 is undoubtedly the most well-known and described bass in the world of string-instruments. Montagnana’s cello’s are known as the largest sounding instruments around. In the past Gregor Piatigorsky, Heinrich Schiff, Frans Helmerson and at present Yo-Yo Ma, Steven Isserlis, Truls Mørk and Alisa Weilerstein play Montagnana cellos. His double bass is made in absolute similar quality of craftsmanship and use of materials.Montagnana, also known as the “mighty Venetian” only build very few double basses, as evidenced by the expenses to a blacksmith for iron tuning machines.The Montagnana bass has been determined by Charles Beare to be build in 1747. A full dendrochronological examination has been undertaken by John Topham in 2013, which proves cross-matches of wood used by Stradivarius and Guarneri del Gesù cut up till 100 years before the actual making.

Having a provenance dating back to 1840 it was already displayed as centerfold in The Strad Magazine of April 1911.  Being published afterwards in several books on Montagnana and Venice violinmaking, the instrument was exposed at the 1995 Paris exhibition. In 1999 the instrument was auctioned at Sotheby’s for a then record price of £ 155.000,-. On that occasion Tim Ingles, Head Department of Musical Instruments at Sotheby’s, London, writes in his preface for Stefano Pio’s book on Venice violinmaking; “The Montagnana bass was the highlight of my first auction as Head of Musical Instruments at Sotheby’s and I still have an almost(!) life-size picture of the back hanging behind my desk. The sheer quantity of thick, wine-red varnish on this instrument is astonishing and it represents an opportunity for experts, who are perpetually examining the minutest of details, to appreciate a masterpiece on a truly grand scale”.

The two piece arched maple back is marked by a prominent narrow width figure ascending from the center joint. The ribs are of similar maple. The neck is maple marked by a irregular figure. The scroll is of plain maple. The four piece spruce top has wide width grain in the center, narrowing in line with the f-holes and widening to the flanks. The varnish is red-brown on golden ground in color.

After being bought by private investors in December 2015 it was given on a lifelong loan to Niek de Groot. In the winter of 2016 the instrument was restored by René Zaal, mainly by renewing old repairs. Simultaneously some major retouches on the top were undertaken in the workshop of Andreas Post.

 

 Double bass Domenico Montagnana, Venice around 1747 Provenance
* Charles Maucotel{noted as the importer to England in the 1840’s, as indicated in the Strad Magazine, april 1911}.
* Frederick Sydney Pratten{Principal double bass, Royal Opera House, d. 1873}
* Charles Harper
* Nicholas Hanhart{an amateur}
* T.W. Bourne{noted as the owner at the time of the Strad article in 1911}
* Claude Hobday{at some point owned the Bottesini Testore}
* Don Cheeseman{bought from Hobday 1936}
* Ernest Ineson{bought from Cheesman in 1976}
* Michael Wais{bought at Sotheby Auction 1999}
* Niek de Groot{bought in 2015, with support of international chamber music lovers}

 Literature
* Four centuries of violinmaking, Tim Ingles, pp. 404 & 414-415{illustrated}
* Violin and Lute Makers of Venice, Stefano Pio, pp. 330-333{illustrated}
* Domenico Montagnana, Lauter in Venitia, pp. 112-119
* Sotheby’s Auction catalog, London 16th of March 1999 Cover Illustration & pp. 28-29
* Les Violins, Hotel de Ville de Paris, Salle Saint-Jean, pp. 113-115
* The Strad{Vol. XXI nos 251 & 252, March 1911, p. 394 & April 1911, pp. 431,
   445-446} and illustrated in the accompanying supplement, where it is setup in a 3-string specification.
* The Strad{Vol. 102, Febr. 1991, pp. 120-124. Illustrated on the front cover &  on p. 130.
* Looking at the double bass, Raymond Elgar, p. 100{illustrated}
* Introduction to the double bass, Raymond Elgar, p. 96-97{illustrated}