In Focus: An 1865 violin by Samuel Nemessányi
Zoltán Délczeg details an instrument by a maker considered to be the most famous in Hungarian history
Samuel Nemessányi is considered to be the finest violin maker in Hungarian history. However, his works are considered a rarity, partly because of his relatively small output (a total of c.60–70 violins, 4–5 violas and perhaps 7 cellos) and partly because several of his best instruments were sold as the work of the great Cremonese masters.
Nemessányi was born in 1837 in a small village near Liptószentmiklós (Verbicz-Husták) in the northern part of what was then the Kingdom of Hungary (now part of Slovakia). The son of a cobbler, he left the mountainous region aged 18 to learn carpentry in Budapest, but soon fell in love with violin making instead. In 1855 he began an apprenticeship at the workshop of Johann Baptist Schweitzer (1790–1865), the most famous luthier in Hungary at the time. After Schweitzer’s retirement in 1856 the workshop was taken over by Thomas Zach (1812–92), who helped improve the young Nemessányi’s skills for a further three years…