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Henry Vieuxtemps Violin

chordophone

The violonist and composer Henry (Henri) Vieuxtemps was born in Verviers (Belgium) in 1820. He died in 1881 in Mustapha (Algeria). He learned to play the violin from the age of four and gave his first concert when he was six. In 1829, he became a pupil of the famous violinist Charles-Auguste de Bériot (1802-1870). He soon started an international career and contributed very significantly to the celebrated Belgian violin school. Vieuxtemps was also a renowned teacher, and he counted Eugène Ysaÿe among his pupils.

His brothers Lucien and Ernest were also musicians. Together, they owned a house at 68 rue du Méridien, Brussels, now marked by a commemorative plaque.

The collections in the Musical Instruments Museum (MIM) contain several artefacts related to Vieuxtemps. The oldest is an experimental violin whose label shows manuscript annotations with the name of the young violonist and a date: 1829. Vieuxtemps was nine years old at that time. The maker of the instrument is unknown, but the label bears the printed name 'Schutz-Marke / V.W.M.'. The instrument's round shape, the mandolinist represented on the label, and the machine heads by which the strings are attached and tuned all suggest that it may have been made in a workshop primarily for plucked instruments.

The MIM also owns two portraits of Vieuxtemps, both dated 1840. The first is a lithograph by Charles Baugniet (1814-1886). The second is a recent acquisition (due to the generosity of Christian an Annemie De Deke-Goedtkindt), consisting of a pencil drawing by C. P. Mazin, a lesser known artist who also made a lithograph of Vieuxtemps in 1846. A copy of this work is kept at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (https://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb396268012).

The MIM even has a plaster cast of Vieuxtemps' right hand, signed 'Vieuxtemps, Anvers 25 avril 1875', made by the sculptor Jef Lambeaux (1852-1908). The same, made of bronze, is kept in the music section of the Royal Library of Belgium (inv. no. Mus. Obj. 799).

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Experimental violin, owned by Henry Vieuxtemps, before 1829
Label of the experimental violin, owned by Henry Vieuxtemps, before 1829
Portrait of Henry Vieuxtemps, C.P. Mazin, Pencil drawing, 1840
Portrait of Henry Vieuxtemps, C.P. Mazin, Pencil drawing, 1840
Plaster cast of Henry Vieuxtemps’ hand, Jef Lambeaux, 1875
House of Henry Vieuxtemps, 68, Méridien street, Saint-Josse-Ten-Noode
House of Henry Vieuxtemps, 68, Méridien street, Saint-Josse-Ten-Noode