All that remains of the original instrument are the back and the
sides. Inside the instrument is a manuscript label, clearly very old
and difficult to read, with the following text: «St. Salvator Novara /
T.Antonius Tarotanusj / facjebat MDC».
The back is in two pieces of maple. In the upper bouts a horizontal cut
delimits a substituted portion of the back. It is possible that such a substitution
was necessary due to accidental damage, but the position of
this cut is also compatible with the hypothesis that the instrument
was originally a viola da gamba, or similar instrument, with a bend in
the back.The back has a polychrome decoration still in good condition.
In the center, a seal with three fleurs-de-lys emblem of the French
royalty framed by a floral festoon, in turn, surrounded by gold cordon
that terminates in the lowermost point with a seal bearing the symbol
of the Order of Saint Michael. Above the entire decoration rests a
golden crown with black areas.
On either side of the central decoration should be two painted letters
surmounted by crowns, but of smaller dimension. The two figures
have been obliterated but one can still make out the crown to the left
of the central ornament. What remains of the letters appears to be
compatible with either a “C” or a “G”, certainly not a “K”.The composition
of the decoration is completed on each side by pairs of intertwined
columns posing on tall plinths in turn supported by pedestals
of minor thickness. Each pair of columns are of a different color –
very likely in origin, one gold and one silver – and, in the uppermost
part, they support a crown similar in material and design to the one in
the central ornament but of different proportions – taller and narrower.
The columns are wrapped in a banner that in the lower turn bore the
royal motto “PIETATE ET IVSTICIA” – still partially legible on
either side.At each corner and at the maximum extremities of the upper
and lower bouts, immediately inside the purfling, there were painted
gold fleurs-de-lys – of which a part are still well preserved.
Even if not identical, for the quality of execution and the general
layout the decoration is very similar to that of the violoncello “Berger”,
both of which differ from the other instruments of “Charles IX” for the
absence of allegoric figures, the pairs of entwined columns, the absence
of putti above the columns and the different position of the letters
surmounted by crowns and, in the end, the choice of the letters themselves.
The sides were originally decorated, but little remains; only on the upper
treble rib, near the neck block, one can read the letters “TAT”. It
is plausible that the rib in question was not originally in this position.
The letters are situated between two simple lines above and below.At
the center of the C bouts these two lines interweave to form a simple
but elegant geometric pattern similar to that on the Sabatier violin and
to the two decorated instruments with the motto “PROPVGNACVLO”
from the National Music Museum (violin NMM
3366 and viola NMM 3370).
The sequence “TAT” is present in both mottos, in the word “pietate”
and in “stat” and, for this reason, compatible with both texts: even
though, the collocation of the three letters in the upper treble rib is not
The instrument was sold at the London auction house of Christie’s on
11 November 1986. Previously, it had been studied by the commission
of Swiss experts and the results of their investigations were published
in the beginning of their volume on Cremonese violinmaking.