St Cecile des Thernes

St Cecile des Thernes

In the tradition of the great french luthier


The violin is one of the most beloved instruments in the world, and it has been played by musicians for centuries. Over the years, many people have dedicated their lives to crafting the perfect violin. One such example is the French luthier and entreprenurial giant Jean Baptiste Vuillaume.

J. B. Vuillaume was born on 7 October 1798 in Mirecourt as the son of a well-established family of violin makers. After completing his apprenticeship under his father, Claude François Vuillaume, the restless young luthier sought new inspiration for his art. This prompted J. B. Vuillaume to leave his home in the Vosges mountains at the age of 19 and relocate to Paris. Once there he discovered an environment that was strongly marked by personalities who were as innovative and eager to experiment as they were entrepreneurial. Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume’s talent as a craftsman and his spirit of curiosity led him to François Chanot in 1819. Chanot, a famous former naval engineer who had been forced to return to the family trade of instrument making due to discharge for political reasons, taught his young assistant about his techniques for improving the sound of a violin. In 1821, J. B. Vuillaume switched to the violin repair studio of organ maker Simon Lété and became a partial owner in 1825 after a brief period of self-employment.

By the time J. B. Vuillaume established his own shop at Rue des Petits Champs No. 40 in 1828, he had become a craftsman with training in the sciences and a skillful businessman. He rigorously pursued the business model that appeared most promising: he crafted highly sophisticated Stradivari and Guarneri replicas. His facsimiles shared the utmost standards of artisanal perfection and historic sensitivity, so much so that even experts confused Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume’s instruments with the originals. Nicolo Paganini, for example, could not distinguish his Guarneri violin from its Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume “twin” until he played it. There was a great surge in demand for historic Italian violins during this epoch, a development which brought Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume immense entrepreneurial success. To meet his needs for premium aged woods so he could fill his many commissions, he travelled through Switzerland, Tyrol and Silesia. Amongst other things Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume bought old furniture and often dismantled it right on the spot in his quest for suitable materials. A major factor in his success was his 1855 purchase of 144 instruments made by the Italian masters for 80,000 francs, from the heirs of Luigi Tarisio, an Italian tradesman. These included the Messiah Stradivarius and 24 other Stradivari instruments.

In 1858, in order to avoid Paris customs duty on wood imports, he moved to Rue Pierre Demours near the Ternes, outside Paris. Here he began a line of violins capitalizing on his popularity, the St. Cecile des Thernes line of violins, built to serve a broader audience of musicians at a more attainable price. Produced from approximately 1844 to 1856, they bear the image of St. Cecilia accross the back of the violin. The banner below the image reads “St. Cecile des Thernes” The violins were constructed in the Mirecourt workshop of his brother, Nicholas Vuillaume, and sent unvarnished to be finished in Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume’s Paris workshop. This allowed Jean-Baptiste to maintain final control of the work and quality of his more affordable line of violins. Examples of the St Cecile violins still exist, no doubt in the hundreds and while not as highly sought after as Vuillaume’s other instruments, they continue to fill an important role as an affordable alternative to the other, often unattainable instruments of past centuries.

Today, his violins continue to be valued by musicians and collectors alike, they are a testament to the enduring power of music and art. Whether you are a musician, a collector, or simply a lover of beautiful things, Vuillaume violins are a true marvel of art and technology.

Our goal is to bring about a return of the St Cecile de Thernes violins with a contemporary flair. Providing uncompromising quality to musicians at an affordable price.