Nicolas Vuillaume (brother of J.B. Vuillaume) married Darte’s mother, Rosalie Zoegger, in 1839 thus becoming Jean Augustin’s stepfather. Darte was born in Paris and served his apprenticeship under Nicolas in Mirecourt. He then worked in J.B. Vuillaume’s workshop in Paris before returning to Mirecourt to work as Nicolas’s assistant. He married in 1858, his stepfather acting as witness. In 1865 he took over the Nicolas Vuillaume workshop and continued the production of ‘Stentor’ violins before the brand was finally sold on to the firm of Gautrot.
Stentors were made on a Guarneri model and, according to Bernard Millant, in three qualities. It has been remarked that they were sometimes called ‘the God of coffee’ supposedly due to their coffee coloured varnish. We have seen many examples and have yet to come across one that could be called coffee coloured. Is it possible the real reason lies in a pun on the name of Darte’s son-in-law, Francois Charles Coffe?
The ¾ size example we currently have for sale bears Darte’s brand to the top block as well as the familiar shield to the back of the scroll; the perfect student instrument for a promising young player.