When it comes to top-class classical violins, people immediately think of the hugely expensive 17th-century examples by Italian violin maker Stradivarius. But the Netherlands too has a rich tradition in building high-quality bowed instruments. The Hendrik Jacobs Foundation is dedicated to this home-grown heritage.
The Netherlands has a rich cultural history. 17th-century Amsterdam was a melting pot of freethinkers, writers, politicians, musicians, composers, merchants and architects. Not to mention: masters of painting. However, one important group is missing from this list: violin makers. The Hendrik Jacobs Foundation, established by young violin maker Hubert de Launay, intends to fill in this gap in the historiography of the Dutch Golden Age.
Leading violin makers
De Launay, trained in England, made some remarkable discoveries during a study of early Dutch bowed instruments at the Kunstmuseum Den Haag. Date indications, working methods, makers, patrons, he was able to uncover all these details for several instruments. He concluded: there was a thriving, high-quality violin-building tradition in the Netherlands, which wielded a world-wide influence. Violin maker Hendrik Jacobs, from whom the foundation derives its name, was on a par with the work of the 17th-century Italian masters with his string instruments.
Contribution as a flywheel
Over the past few years, De Launay has assembled people and expertise around him in order to realise his future research plans. Prominent experts as well as institutes all support his project, which will last for a total of five years. Dioraphte’s contribution to the first year of research has had a positive flywheel effect, leading to an increasing number of interested parties joining in. The intended output: an English-language book to be distributed to violin makers worldwide. And a publication aimed at the general public to promote widespread awareness of this Dutch cultural heritage.
Forgotten heritage on the map
‘We want to scale up and expedite the historiography of Dutch bowed instruments and their makers from the 17th century. This is a truly forgotten heritage. In fact, my tutor from the UK, John Dilworth, one of the world’s leading violin making experts, once wrote that the 17th century Dutch school is arguably the best next to the Italian one. I would like to put this matter on the map as part of Dutch heritage. The support of Dioraphte has helped us considerably in this respect. Particularly because as a fund they really think along with us and have expert knowledge. If you do more than just provide funding, you can take an ambitious project like this a major step further.’
Hubert de Launay, violin maker and restorer, and founder of the Hendrik Jacobs Foundation