Saturday, April 13, 2019

A Day in Oxford

We recently returned from a trip to England and Scotland.  First on my list of attractions to see when we planned the trip was a visit to the stringed-instrument collection at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

And here I am, standing next to what is likely the most expensive violin in the world.

This is the famous Antonio Stradivari "Messiah" violin.

As you might be able to tell from the first photo, with the bright outside atrium light coming in through one portal, together with the glass cases and busy backgrounds, photography in the place is tough.  Of course, there are plenty of decent photos of the Messiah to be found on-line, as well as controversy.  It has a nearly complete layer of colored varnish, sharp edges, squared corners, all the things that other Strads don't -- because the others have been worn by centuries of use.  Everyone I know who actually knows about Strads and other high-end violins think that this is the real thing.  But folks love conspiracies, and if you do, too, don't bother commenting here.  Not interested.

I was able to get a reasonable photo of the back, though, as before, better ones can be found on-line.

And here is the Messiah to the left, another Strad and a Viullame in a second case, and a case of guitars, including a Strad guitar at the far right.  Note the glare on the glass fronts.

Here's the back of that guitar's headstock.

You might be able to click on it and see the identifying marks.

In addition to the Messiah, I knew the Museum had the oldest known violin, and was hoping it would be on display.  It was.

In addition to this, a few others from the Amati family.

And another N. Amati I just thought was elegant, showing what can be done without relying on the figure in the wood for the wow-factor.

In addition to the Cremonese instruments, a display of Brescian fiddles of various sorts.

A quick walk from the Ashmolean, is the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, where they have trombones, 


a bow-maker's shop from the Hill Brothers shop,

and a plaster cast of Josef Haydn's skull.

By the look on his face in the painting, Haydn is not too sure about this display.

We walked around Oxford a little,

We're not eating at 5 Guys in Oxford.

This is better.

Nice day.