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The Chanot Family: The Anglo-French Connection
On February 03, 2020
by Will Robertson & Raph Hurwitz
Joseph Antony Chanot
The Chanot family have intrigued me. Ever since trying one of Georges Adolphe’s cellos on my quest to find my own several years ago, I remember being baffled by his lineage. How had this maker, the grandson of such a success story in Paris ended up in Manchester?
It seems almost like a rite of passage in the Chanot family that the older sons are tasked with setting up their own independent business, whilst the younger sons are tasked with continuing the shop of their father. You can see this trend starting from Georges I. Georges was a tremendous businessman and maker who "ranks alongside Vuillaume" with regards to his prominence and acumen. Having trained in Mirecourt, he and his brother headed to Paris where they worked together for a time. Georges soon moved on - working brief stints for both Gand and Lété before setting up independently.

Georges I’s eldest sons, Adolphe and Georges II grew up learning the family business, but in the early 1850s travelled to London to try and conquer the market there. Adolphe sadly passed away a short time later, but Georges’s business flourished and he was the recipient of many awards, notably making instruments for Piatti and Wieniawski amongst others.

Georges II had three sons: Georges Adolph, Frederick William and Joseph Antony. Georges Adolph, who I mentioned at the beginning, moved to Manchester when he was twenty-four. The youngest son, however, Joseph Antony, remained in London and worked with his father until Georges II’s death in 1895. He managed to keep the business going another forty years until 1931, but with the Hills being such a strong competitor, he struggled to make the same impact as his grandfather had in Paris.

Such violins are a source of great pride and gratification to all who are fortunate owners - completely desirable acquisitions affording unqualified enjoyment in the present - W. Henley

Nevertheless, Joseph Antony produced quite a major output. John Dilworth reckons that at the height of the business, he is said to have "produced over 150 violins and an equally large number of bows between 1881 and 1912". Henley raves about the quality of these instruments, often copies of the Guarneri del Gesù ‘Sainton’ model. As you can see from the photographed violin, it would have been a favourite of Henley’s: "Covered with plenty of rich varnish of various shades (we prefer the golden yellow) that will stand the test of scores of years’ wear and become lovelier during that period."

Although this violin is not of the same quality as the finer Parisian work that was produced by Lupot, Aldric, Vuillaume etc. Chanot's inherited french craftsmanship is still highly visible. The f-holes are a pleasing shape; the placement undeniably taken straight from the Guarneri model he so often reproduced. The corners and purfling are all neat, and the curve to the front-profile of the pegbox wall is demonstrative of the aforementioned care taken.