The La Pucelle is one of the finest violins made by the famous artisan Antonio Stradivari who lovingly made this exquisite instrument at his workshop in Cremona, Italy in 1709.
The La Pucelle was crafted during the Golden Period of Stradivari; a time when he created some of the most beautiful, musical instruments that are so highly-valued these days. In fact, he not only created some of the most expensive violins in the world, but guitars, and other musical instruments as well. The violins, in particular, are distinguished by their excellent craftsmanship and unmatched sound quality.
Even today the La Pucelle remains an epitome of fine craftsmanship and elegance and is still in the pristine condition after so many years.
The first thing that distinguishes the La Pucelle from other violins is its unique design. It has a tailpiece design that makes it different from other Stradivarius Violins. The tailpiece is carved with the image of a woman in armour, known as ‘the Joan of Arc’. However, the carving was not made by Stradivari himself. It was added to its design by Parisian dealer, Jean Baptiste Vuillaume, who took it apart in the 19th Century. Vuillaume not only created the famous Joan of Arc tail of the violin, he also created the instrument’s elaborately carved pegs.
Interestingly enough, the instrument was given the name “the Virgin” or maiden by Vuillaume. The instrument came to him, and he was awe-struck by its pristine condition. As such, Vuillaume declared it to be as pure as a virgin. The instrument has been given the name of La Pucelle after that.
The violin is currently owned by David L. Fulton who bought it from the Heiress, Huguette Clark. The Heiress kept the violin for nearly fifty years after receiving it as a gift from her mother, Anna, who was an admirer and collector of Stradivarius instruments. Huguette eventually sold the violin to David Fulton with a very interesting clause in their contract that her name be concealed for ten years. The violin was sold for $6 million USD.
To date, the La Pucelle remains in pristine condition. It is said to have no cracks, no re-touching, no worn-down corners, or edges. Discussing the merits of La Pucelle, Canadian violinist James Ehnes describes it as having a “purity of tone and purity of breath” and plays “like a beam of light, and that is very strong and wide”.
According to a violin expert, Charles Beare, the violin is the truest epitome of the Stradivari’s Golden period. The centuries have failed to change or diminish the beauty, grace, or elegance of the La Pucelle.
Listen to James Ehnes play the La Pucelle in concert below…