Vuillaume’s St Cecile

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Paris violin maker Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume (1798-1875) achieved tremendous recognition during his lifetime for his beautiful and consistent workmanship and the responsiveness of his instruments. His workshop employed many of finest best violin and bow makers of the day. They produced instruments inspired by models from Stradivari, Guarneri del Gesu, Nicolo Amati, and Maggini. Some of these instruments were “bench copies” with skillfully antiqued varnish made as meticulously detailed replicas of especially notable instruments.

Capitalizing on his popularity, Vuillaume introduced the St. Cecile des Thernes line of violins to serve a broader audience of musicians. These instruments, produced from about 1844 until 1856, bear the image of St. Cecilia, the patroness of musicians, on the back of the violin. The banner below the image reads “St. Cecile des Thernes” (Thernes was the name of the town where his country house was located outside of Paris). The violins were constructed in the Mirecourt workshop of his brother Nicholas Vuillaume, and sent “in the white” to be finished and varnished in Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume’s Paris workshop, thus allowing Jean-Baptiste to maintain final control of the work and quality of his more affordable line of violins. A third and less expensive line of violins called the Stentor was also produced in the Nicholas Vuillaume workshop for sale in Paris, and these violins carry the “Stentor” moniker in a raised banner at the back of the pegbox.

The Vuillaume St. Cecile we have for sale is a Stradivari model dated 1852. It has an attractive one-piece maple back and a body length of 358mm, a typical size for a Vuillaume Stradivari model. It is in particularly fine original condition, retaining its original neck, with a very clear, strong, and robust sound, and is suitable for any level of player.

Violins for the Next Stage

Violin by Virgilio Cappellini

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Cremona, Italy, 1974. Length of Back: 355 mm – $10,000

A Stradivari model in excellent condition by a fine modern Italian maker. This violin has a bright, bold tone suitable to large concert halls and lends itself easily to solo playing.

Violin by Albert Deblaye

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Paris, 1924. Length of Back: 359 mm  – $8,500

A French Stradivari model violin with a gorgeous two-piece back in nearly perfect condition with comfortable playing proportions and a clear, bright sound.

Violin by Etienne Laprevotte

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Paris, 1822. Length of Back: 359 mm – $9,000

An extremely well-preserved French violin with a sweet, somewhat dark tone.

Violin by Louis Dolling, Jr.

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Markneukirchen, c.1890. Length of Back: 359 mm$8,500

A wonderful example of fine Markneukirchen workmanship with a bold, sophisticated sound.

 Violin by August Gemunder

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New York, 1912. Length of Back: 356 mm$10,000

The maker’s long pattern Stradivari model with a one-piece back of dramatically flamed American slab-cut maple.

Violin by Otto Glaesel

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Markneukirchen, 1885. Length of Back: 362 mm$10,000

A “Red Violin” by an exceptionally talented maker with a lengthy inscription from the maker on the interior of the instrument.

Violin by Heinrich E. Heberlein

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Markneukirchen, 1921. Length of Back: 359 mm$4,200

The Heberlein Workshop operated from the 1890’s until the late 1920’s and was arguably the most well-respected large workshop of the time in Markneukirchen. This particular violin is a Stradivari model with a beautifully flamed one-piece back.

Violin by John Juzek

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Prague, 1936.  Length of Back: 356 mm – $8,500

This famous workshop’s “Master Art” Gagliano model. Beautiful antiquing and a powerful, bright tone make this violin stand out.

 Violin by William Moenning I

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Philadelphia, 1919. Length of Back: 360 mm$8,000

A rare example of the work of the founder of the Moennig shop in Philadelphia.

Violin by Paul Doerfel

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Markneukirchen, 1930. Length of Back: 357 mm – $11,000

An elegant semi-antiqued Carlo Testore model made under the maker’s Italianized pseudonym “Eulo Dorfino” for the Moennig shop.

Additional Recommendations

Call us at 215-545-1100 or email with questions.

“What an amazing building! What’s its history?”

As many of you who have visited us know, Frederick W. Oster Violins occupies a very unique building in Center City, Philadelphia. As a result, we are often asked about the history of the house and its former tenants. We’ve compiled the history of the building as we know it for all who are interested in learning more about our lovely shop at 507 South Broad Street.

Established in 1974 by Frederick W. Oster, Vintage Instruments is America’s largest and most eclectic shop specializing in old and antique acoustic musical instruments. Our specialties begin with fine Violin Family instruments, ranging to vintage guitars, banjos, mandolins and ukuleles. We also work with nineteenth-century woodwinds and brass, and a wide range of historical instruments. In addition to instruments, the shop carries a fine selection of strings, accessories and cases.

EntryLightIn 2008 the shop moved from its previous nineteenth century building to the current premises at 507 South Broad Street, the area known as the “Avenue of the Arts.” This building was designed by architect George Pearson and showcases the Aesthetic style then in vogue in London and the East Coast of the United States. Construction began in 1882 and the building was likely finished in 1886, which was when the wallpaper hangers signed one of the walls they were finishing with their names, dates, and their home addresses. The building was commissioned by James Dundas Lippincott and Alice Lippincott as an extension to their home next door at 509 South Broad Street. Telltale evidence of doorways in the walls showed that the two buildings were originally connected. However, they may have been separated from one another as early as 1894, and certainly by 1906.

Much of the interior woodwork, from doors to moldings, and wall paneling were likely milled on site. Other details, such as the tiles and leaded glass were likely made in American workshops. For instance, many of the decorative tiles have the mark of J.&J.G. Low Art Tile works of Chelsea, Massachusetts.

Although interior photos of the building showing the original decor have yet to surface, the building is now furnished with period appropriate reproduction wallpaper by Bradbury and Bradbury. Among these is their republication of a wallpaper designed by Christopher Dresser of London, and first exhibited at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.

The stained glass ceiling, visible from all three floors of the shop


Alice was born in Georgia in 1846 but grew up in Princeton, New Jersey. Her family’s AliceLippincottItalianate home later was acquired by Princeton University in 1878 and is now known as Prospect House. James was born in 1840 in Philadelphia. He graduated from Princeton University in 1861 with a Bachelor of Arts. James Dundas Lippincott and Alice Potter were married in 1867. James and Alice were both from wealthy families. The Dundas family had substantial holdings in coal lands in Pennsylvania. Even after their marriage, Alice received an annuity from her father’s estate. While the couple could have continued to live in the Lippincott’s grand “Yellow Mansion” at Broad and Walnut, in March of 1875 they purchased the properties at 509 and 507 South Broad Street. The deeds to both of these properties were in Alice’s name. Perhaps she used her inheritance, or maybe James was concerned about protecting them from the protracted legal battles he was involved in concerning the probate of his great uncle James Dundas’ estate between 1871 and 1888.

James exercised no profession, though he did keep an office at 400 Locust street. The couple were known as prominent socialites, and they kept themselves busy as philanthropists who supported a large variety of institutions and causes financially and as board members. The couple were especially interested in supporting early education and medical programs serving all levels of society. A special concert was held January 6, 1888 in their home for which 500 people purchased tickets at $2/person to hear a program of music in support of the Cooking School. The presentation included D.C. Everest’s violin solos and banjo selections by female pupils of Mr. T.J. Armstrong. In 1894 Alice was elected as one of the first women overseers of the Penn University Museum. Sadly, that same year Alice took ill and died during the couple’s annual summer sojourn to Bar Harbor, Maine. Her funeral took place July 25th at 11:00 am in their home at 509 South Broad St.

The Yellow Mansion

After Alice’s death James returned to the Yellow Mansion a few blocks north at Broad and Walnut Streets where his mother Agnes still lived. In 1902 Agnes died two weeks after suffering a fall from slipping on a rug. She left to James the bulk of her five million dollar (that’s 1902 dollars!) estate. Then, in 1904 James married Isabelle Armstrong, the society editor for a Washington, D.C. newspaper and daughter of Brig General Frank C. Armstrong. Fourteen months later, James became ill and died of pneumonia on March 6, 1905. Although Isabel had the Yellow Mansion thoroughly renovated and refitted after their  marriage, she sold it a few months after James’ death and it was replaced by the office buildings that remain on the site today

Isabel Armstrong Lippincott moved to 204 Rittenhouse Square. This Lippincott house was called the “White Mansion.” The house had two of the columns from the Yellow House, and many Lippincott portraits. On March 20, 1909 she remarried Archibald Barklie, a banker in NY and NJ. After the honeymoon they went to their home in Bar Harbor, and then on to live in Washington, D.C.

James Dundas and Alice Lippincott are buried together in a crypt at Laurel Hill cemetery in Philadelphia.

Find A Grave Link for Alice:

Find A Grave link for James Dundas


Violin by Joseph Rocca, Turin 1846


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 The Allemanda from Sonata No.4  by Eugène Ysaÿe performed on the Rocca by Paul Arnold of the Philadelphia Orchestra

Giuseppe Antonio (Joseph) Rocca (1807-1865) worked in both Turin and Genoa. His early career flourished while an apprentice with Giovanni Francesco Pressenda from 1834-38.  Rocca was especially fascinated by the fine works of Stradivarius, Guarnerius and Maggini, and took great inspiration from them.

In its model, beautiful wood selection, and exacting workmanship, this instrument is an exquisite tribute to one of Rocca’s favorite violins, the 1716 Messiah Stradivarius. Suitable for a soloist, this violin has enjoyed a long career of orchestral use, including the Israel Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra. It produces sound readily, with depth, clarity, and color.  It is articulate, powerful, and capable of great nuance.


The Art of Restoration


Occasionally an instrument comes to us after an accident of some sort and, not unlike surgeons, it’s our workshop’s job to bring it back to good health. The work is meticulous and requires a clear path of action, flexibility and good judgment, and a great deal of patience. A good restorer is often also an artist and an inventor, channeling the style of the maker and creating new tools, fixtures, and jigs along the way to solve a repair.

Last Fall, a violin by John Wilkinson arrived in our workshop after an accidental impact cracked it open in multiple spots. Below is a photo journey of the instrument’s restoration with violin-maker and restorer, Sam Payton.

The foam case the instrument arrived in. The case looked perfectly intact on the outside, but once the cover was removed the full extent of the damage was evident.


The top upon arriving. The center seam is visibly open and cracks can be seen on the bass side f-wing
A long crack descending from the treble f-wing. Not pictured is a soundpost crack and an additional crack traveling up from the top  f-wing.


The crack on the lower rib resulting from the impact.


The back center seam here is clearly open. A closer look reveals a crack branching off from the center as well.



Once the top was off, Sam removed the rib from the lower block using alcohol to dehydrate the old glue. This is a time-consuming process but the safest way to address an area that has been well-glued. Sam then used a poplar doubling which was bent to fit the rib. Poplar is a particularly wonderful wood to use for this kind of repair because it reduces the amount of mass while still providing support (this crack occurred where the chinrest on the violin goes, which makes strong support especially crucial).


The back has now been removed and is affixed to a clamping fixture. This fixture has pins that help to support and align the center seam during clamping.
A close-up showing the separation of the two halves of the fixture. The separation between the halves allows for the fitting and clamping of the center seam.
The fixture is set up in a way that all three hairline cracks on the back could be clamped and glued at the same time as the center seam.
The top crack repairs completed with mulberry fiber cleats. Unlike traditional wooden cleats, mulberry fiber cleats don’t produce a large amount of stress along grain lines, making future cracks much less likely. They also don’t alter the sound of the instrument as much as a wooden cleat because they have less mass.  The soundpost crack was patched using wood the same age as the wood from the violin’s top.