Stradivarius at work in his studio by Edgar Bundy

April 15, 2014

Detail of Edgar Bundy's 1893 portrait of Stradivarius in his workshop
The full portrait of Stradivarius, which was exhibited at London's Royal Academy

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the exhibition of British artist Edgar Bundy’s portrait of Stradivarius at work in his studio at London’s Royal Academy of Arts. Although there is some doubt as to the authenticity of the 1893 painting – as no definitive record of the luthier’s appearance exists – The Strad’s June 1914 issue was complimentary about the work and the painter’s efforts to achieve as much accuracy as possible:

‘The records of Stradivarius’s life have been studied by the artist; and this, and the fine execution and imaginative treatment render the picture worthy of special attention, especially from musicians.

The house in Cremona where Stradivarius lived and worked remained practically unchanged until about 30 years ago, when the proprietor of the café adjoining acquired it, and made great alterations in the structure, and the loft, or workshop, on the roof was removed. It is this loft, open  on three sides to admit the air, and render it a suitable place for drying the instruments after varnishing, which is represented in the painting.

It is unfortunate that no properly authenticated portrait of Stradivarius exists, but he is said to have been tall and thin, and always seen in his working clothes, as he was always at work.

We may also note the tools in the picture, hanging in the workshop, some of which were peculiar to Stradivarius. The surroundings are altogether interesting, and recall the extreme skill and care exercised by him, and the special quality of the work of the great artist. The unfinished instruments and the materials are very suggestive, and the impression left is of an enthusiast, living his frugal life, happy in his work, and creating sources of inspiration for succeeding generations. ‘

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