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Fine viola, Johann Michael Willer, Prague 1776
A rare historic instrument with a mature, warm and resonant voice, this fine viola was made by the Prague luthier Johann Michael Willer. The original label inside dates back to the year 1776, and it was not until four years later that Johann Willer was granted the right to become a citizen of the old town of Prague. In the course of his four and a half decades of work there, he gradually rose to become the head of the luthiers’ guild. This early Willer viola demonstrates how impressive the young violin maker’s high standards were; he was only 23 at the time and was still fully influenced by the traditions of the “Tyrolean school.” The sound holes are characteristic in their shape and position and were carved with great care and a sense of style – stylistic touches with which Johann Willer quickly made a great name for himself. His approach helped him establish a reputation as the best master in Prague in his day, alongside his influential peer Kašpar Strnad. The elegant carving of the rather small scroll provides an authentic look at this early phase of his work, although by contrast the varnish is rather enigmatic: the original red varnish on the top has only been preserved in a few remaining areas, which means that the viola’s base coat is visible in spots. A repair label signed in 1864 appears to refer to a few very well executed repairs to the upper right of the top, and the attentiveness paid to these areas confirms that this instrument has been held in high esteem for over two hundred years. The specialists at our atelier have set up this antique viola and made it ready to play. It has precise musical properties which are compelling, as well as a bright-sounding voice and a comfortable corpus which measures 39.5 cm in length.