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"Beethoven & Berlioz, Paris & Vienna:
Musical Treasures from the Age of Revolution & Romance

Violin by Chanot & Lété Workshop, Paris, ca. 1819

NMM 5972.  Violin by Chanot & Lété Workshop, Paris, ca. 1819 Side view of Chanot violin Back of Chanot violin

NMM 5972. Violin by Chanot & Lété Workshop, Paris, ca. 1819. Arne B. Larson Estate, 1989.

François Chanot (1788-1825) was the eldest son of Joseph Chanot, a violin maker in Mirecourt, the major French center of this trade. Rather than entering the family business, he studied at l'École polytechnique in Paris and became a naval engineer. In 1816, after a distinguished career in the navy, he was dismissed because of his suspected sympathies for Napoleon, now in exile after his defeat at Waterloo. During the following few years, Chanot turned his engineering talents to redesigning the violin and the larger instruments of the family.

Dispensing with the tailpiece, Chanot attached the strings to an ebony plate set in the belly, in the manner of a guitar. Guided by a theory that the wood fibers should be as long as possible, Chanot simplified the shape of the violin's f-holes and adopted the cornerless body design that had often been used by luthiers in the past.


Chanot violin soundholes

Close-up view of Chanot violin soundholes.

Pegbox and Scroll

Front view of Chanot violin pegbox Side view of Chanot violin pegbox Back view of Chanot violin pegbox

Chanot turned the scroll backwards to facilitate fastening the strings to their tuning pegs. Alternatively, the pegboxes of some Chanot instruments have, instead of a scroll, a simpler finial with a shield.

Label:  none.

Body:  guitar-shaped body without corners or overhanging edges.

Top:  two-piece, quarter-cut spruce, medium grain.

Back:  one-piece, quarter-cut maple with narrow, horizontal curl; later ivory cap over entire button.

Ribs:  quarter-cut maple with faint, medium curl, angled to right on bass side, angled to left on treble side; top and back do not overhang ribs.

Head and neck:  maple, narrow curl; reversed scroll, reeded; back of pegbox fluted; neck varnished.

Edging:  edges not scooped; edges capped with rounded ivory (on top, bass side, later celluloid) over a later stained pearwood strip on top and an ebony strip on back.

Purfling:  ebony and ivory; continues under back button.

Varnish:  golden-brown.

Fingerboard:  ebony; channeled over neck position.

Nut:  later bone.

String holder:  later guitar-style, ebony, without saddle; rounded upper surface with facets on sides; strings held by later bone pins with abalone eyes.

Pegs:  four boxwood with flat head surfaces and mother-of-pearl eyes set in ebony rings.

Saddle:  later ebony; half-round shape; ridge along upper edge.

Endpin:  ebony with central incised hole surrounded by incised ring.

F-holes:  curved, slot-shaped; edges lined in stained pearwood and ivory, the inside edge painted black.

Linings:  spruce upper; later wide poplar lower.

Top block:  small spruce; nail into neck heel.

Bassbar:  narrow, probably original. Inside of body stained brown, possibly due to original nitric or pyrogallic acid treatment.



Stop length:  199 mm
Vibrating string length:  338 mm
Original neck length (bottom of nut to ribs): 136 mm
Upper bout width:  167 mm
Center bout width:  110 mm
Lower bout width:  211 mm
Back length: 370 mm 
Rib height:  31 mm

Literature:  John Koster, "Inventive Violin Making . . . Important Acquisitions Enrich Museum's Holdings," America's Shrine to Music Museum Newsletter 28, No. 3 (August 2001), pp. 1-3.

André P. Larson, Beethoven & Berlioz, Paris & Vienna: Musical Treasures from the Age of Revolution & Romance 1789-1848, with essay by John Koster, exhibition catalog, Washington Pavilion, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, September 12-November 2, 2003 (Vermillion: National Music Museum 2003), p. 32.

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Most recent update: February 26, 2014

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