City and History


Mirecourt is a small town situated in the Vosges Plain in northeastern France. Its location provides easy access and transportation to cities such as Vittel, Èpinal, Neufchâteau, Nancy and Paris. Since ancient times Mirecourt was a town renowned for lace-making and the manufacture of musical instruments, especially string instruments. For many the town is seen as the world capital for French violin making and lace making.

The luthier tradition of Mirecourt can be traced back to the end of the 16th century. Legend has it that every time the Dukes of Lorraine travelled to Mirecourt, he brought along his court musicians and luthiers. Many court luthiers chose to retire to Mirecourt and brought the art of violin making to the small town. In addition, since the Dukes of Lorraine had drawn up strict regulations for the guild of luthiers, this enhanced the sales of string instruments and the continual development of the violin making industry there.

Although it cannot be verified how the craft of violin making reached Paris, the earliest record of luthier apprenticeship in Mirecourt can be traced to 1629. Luthiers from the early period include Nicolas Augustin Chappuy (1730-1784), Joseph Bassot (1738-1808), Jean Colin (fc.1745-1770), and Jean Nicolas Lambert (fc. 1731-1761).

Mirecourt had always been a city of great importance for French violin making, and it became even more so after 1750. As the birthplace of many eminent luthiers and bowmakers, the city was also replete with private studios and violin making factories, which greatly contributed to the development of French violin making. Although after 1790 many master luthiers had moved to Paris, Mirecourt today still provides a large supply of string instruments all over France.

The Ècole Nationale de Lutherie Lycée Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume was established in Mirecourt to commemorate the distinguished luthier Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume (1798-1875). Founded in 1970, the school was divided into the department for violin making and bow-making. In 1973, a municipal Lutherie Museum was established to collect and preserve the works of the many outstanding luthiers of Mirecourt. One of the special items of the museum is a cello that measures 7.5 meters long, three times the length of a regular cello, built with the aim for visitors to clearly see the detailed structure of a string instrument.


Situated in southern France, Nice was the center of cultural exchanges between Italy and France. Due to the political upheavals of the Middle Ages, Nice had during various times in its history belonged to Provence, Savoy (1388), France (1705), Sardinia (1706), France (1793), Piedmont (1814), and finally the French government in 1860.

During the 18th century, the music of Nice was centered around the Teatro Maccarani and the churches built during the Baroque period. Most of the churches kept the pipe organs made by the Grinda brothers: Honoré Grinda (1754-1843) and Antoine Grinda (1775-1835).

During the 19th century, Nice drew many visitors from Russia, England and Belgium. The vibrant artistic atmosphere of the city also attracted many musicians, among which were Hector Berlioz (1803-1869), Giocomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864), Richard Wagner (1813-1883), Paganini, and 20th-century composers Jules Massenet (1842-1912), Gabriel Urbain Fauré (1845-1924) and Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971).

In the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, aristocratic saloon music became greatly popular in Nice. The aristocrats helped to plan and organize many music and theater performances. In 1885, Théâtre Municipal, the first theater house in Nice, was established. This theater allowed many relatively unknown musicians to premiere their works. In 1985, Nice founded an even larger theater, the Acropolis, which houses 2500 seats and is the biggest theater in Europe, measuring 1200 square meters.

In recent years, Nice has begun to establish its own symphonic, chamber, and Baroque orchestras. The local arts school is also one of the most renowned arts colleges in the nation. Every year Nice hosts large-scale music events such as the chamber music festival and a jazz festival, adding to the musical richness and reputation of the city.

No detailed record of the early violin making history in Nice exists. It is only known that Valenzano Giovani Maria stayed temporarily in Nice in the 1800s, and during the 1830s Pierre Pacherele (1803-1871) began to practice his violin making craft in Nice, later passing his studio to Augustin Blanchi (1828-1899), Alberto Blanchi (1871-?), and later Pierre Gaggini (1903-2005). Although they were all Italian luthiers, they followed the French style of violin making.


Located in northern France on the west bank of La Seine, Paris is regarded as one of the world’s most ancient and most prosperous cities, and as the capital of France it is also the nation’s cultural and political center.

Paris became one of the most important musical cities between the 12th and 14 century and was regarded as the center for the development of European music. Many eminent and active artists performed at the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. The public paid great attention to the achievements of these artists, which included polyphonic music used for the mass and other worship rituals, the first systematic method for transcribing music, and the development of new composition techniques and musical styles.

In addition to the development of religious music coming out of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame, Paris was a city of great importance in Europe for the manufacturing of musical instruments, ranging from harp, piano, woodwind, brass to string instruments. In fact, the city was most well-known for its production of string instruments. Almost all French luthiers, regardless of their origin, would eventually set up their own shops in Paris for manufacturing, repairing, and selling their own instruments or violins made by other luthiers.

The earliest luthiers active in France include Francois Medard (c.1620-c.1700), Jacques Boquary (1680-1730), Claude Pierray (1698-1730) and Pierre Veron (1690-1730). After the 18th century, famous French luthiers include Pierre Francois Grosset (1700-1756), Jean Baptiste Salomon (1713-1767), and Louis Guersan (1700-1770).

By the middle of the 18th century, Paris had developed an incredibly vibrant musical environment, which attracted luthiers from all over Europe to the great metropolitan. Italian luthiers Louis Lagetto (c. 1724- c.1753), Andrea Castagneri (1696-1747) and Austrian luthier François Fent (c.1765-c. 1790) were among those who successfully imported the violin making styles of other countries (especially the Italian style) into France, which nurtured the French school of violin making. Naturally, luthiers from other countries also became influenced by the French style.