- Richard Duke London , circa 1770
Richard Duke (1718-1783) was the prototypical 18th Century British violin maker and entrepreneur whose shop made highly desirable instruments and trained a wave of the craft's next generation. The business also was wildly successful, earning Duke renown and building a legacy suitable to pass on to his successor, John Betts.
A highlight of Duke's career, he was appointed musical instrument maker to the Duke of Gloucester around the 1767. This offered him and his business even more opportunities.
Duke's origins are unknown - researchers have failed to even identify his father. Some speculate that Duke learned or at least was influenced by Peter Wamsley because Duke's early work is similar to that of the elder master.
Duke's earliest known instruments are fairly faithful copies of Stainer instruments, with characteristic high arching and appropriate f-holes. Although most violinists in 18th Century England still demanded Stainer-inspired instruments, Duke was an early champion of copying Cremonese instruments and produced many Strad and Amati copies. Most instruments are branded "Duke London," but more faithful copies did not receive brands.
This violin has a beautiful one-piece, quarter cut maple back with a narrow, bold figure. The "Duke" brand is clear and well emblazoned by the button. The arching has dramatic sweeping lines, the varnish is a rich reddish-brown, and the overall execution of this instrument is crisp.