Violin by Antonio Stradivari, Cremona, 1699, "Castelbarco" [Front and back views of complete, strung instrument]. Performing Arts Reading Room, Library of Congress.
This violin was, with the "Castelbarco" cello of 1697, once a part of the quartet of Stradivaris owned by Count Cesare Castelbarco of Milan. After the count died, it was sold in London to Jean Baptiste Vuillaume. The violin later was sold to several other owners until it was purchased in about 1875 by John Mountford, who also owned the "Kreisler" Guarneri. Mountford owned this violin until his death, at which time it passed to the Hills of London and then to a Mrs. Renton of Guildford, Surrey. Nathan Posner bought this violin from Mrs. Renton and brought it to the United States. He in turn sold it to Mrs. Gertrude Clarke Whittall.
Stradivari's works from 1697-99 are especially interesting in that they reflect his relentless experimentation-notably a transition from the long form of the mid-decade to the elegant proportions of his post-1700 works. The "Castelbarco" is among the last of these long-form instruments--slightly longer in body length but also narrower across the bouts. The length of the back of this violin is 355.5 mm while the 1704 "Betts" measures 353.0 mm. The comparative widths at the upper, middle, and lower bouts are:
|upper||159.0 mm||168.5 mm|
|middle||104.0 mm||107.7 mm|
|lower||197.8 mm||206.5 mm|
Notable in the arching is the fullness in the C-bout, which gives the instrument more of a barrel shape than evidenced in later instruments. The pegbox, a design change, shows Stradivari's practical side-enlarging Amati's typical narrow dimension of the inside of the pegbox at the A-peg to 10.6 mm. The scroll was further widened on the "Betts" to 11.4 mm in an effort to give a musician greater ease in putting on an A-string.
Many of the Stradivari violins sold by the Hills have an inscription inside noting an owner. In the "Castelbarco" violin, it is inscribed in the top in the lower bout on the treble side: "The 'Castelbarco' Stradivari / for many years in possession / of John Mountford Esq. / A. Hill."