Knopf dynasty: A tangled web

Knopf Family Tree

Three bow makers of the Knopf family are well known: Christian Wilhelm, Heinrich and Henry. But the dynasty comprises more than a dozen members, many of whom deserve recognition. Gennady Filimonov draws on archive material supplied by the Knopf descendants

Many violin and bow makers will pass on their skills to the next generation. It is rare, though, for a maker to found a dynasty with more than a few members taking up the craft and becoming just as skilled, if not more so, than their parents. And it is extraordinary for a dynasty to last five generations, with at least fourteen family members engaged in the same business, producing strings, stringed instruments, bows and horns in Saxony from the 18th century. This was the achievement of the Knopfs, one of the most respected instrument making families in all of Germany, whose bows are still highly regarded today and even bear comparison with those of Nikolai Kittel – who commissioned large numbers from them in the mid-19th century. The family name then became widely known in America, with a Knopf founding one of the first violin shops in New York. Several family members became famous in their own time, yet the less well-known Knopf makers have always remained shrouded in mystery, despite for years sharing the same workshop in Markneukirchen. Now, thanks to their descendants, documents and memorablia have come to light explaining the family history in more detail and bringing the lives of the Knopfs, as well as their work and achievements, into sharp relief…

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