The then little known Laberte firm established itself in 1780 as a small family workshop making violins in Mirecourt. In 1876 the Laberte brothers Maurice-Emile and Pierre Alexis Auguste established Laberte-Humbert following in the footsteps of other well known and successful violin workshops in Mirecourt such as Jérôme Thibouville-Lamy. Laberte promised to offer a more selective and limited range of high quality violins, cellos, violas and accessories, where as JTL were manufacturing on a huge scale instruments of all types, from flutes to mandolins.
Laberte-Humbert grew from strength to strength throughout the turn of the century, producing some very fine instruments and eventually in 1920 headed by Pierre Alexis Auguste’s son, Marc Labert (1880-1963) who merged the company with the Fournier Magnie firm, which was established in 1775 by Joseph Thiriot.
This new expanse of violin talent and knowledge from nearly 300 years of combined experience making violins led Laberte-Humbert to become one of the most renowned workshops of the 20th Century. It became very profitable, managing to diversify through the 1930s depression by creating gramophones and radios under the brand name “Stradivox”. By 1930 the firm employed up to 500 workers.
From 1902 until the second world war, Labert-Humbert employed many of the best luthiers in France, including Joseph Aubry, Charles Brugere, Camille Poirson and Georges Apparut. These fantastic makers, under the guidance of Marc Labert produced some wonderful violins which today have more than stood the test of time and will continue to appreciate over this century and presumably next.
This violin was created by the Laberte-Humbert firm and is modelled after a violin made by J. B. Vuillaume.
Jean Baptiste Vuillaume was arguably France’s most important luthier, violin dealer, expert and inventor. His produced a large number of incredibly high quality violins and bows which today command six figure sums. In 1855 he purchased 144 very fine Italian instruments from the famed Italian violin dealer Luis Tarisio for 80,000 francs, this included the most valuable violin in the world, Stradivari’s Messiah along with 24 other Stradivari instruments. He was awarded the Legion of Honour in 1851.
In the early 1900s inspired by Vuillaume’s fine instruments and Marc Laberte’s personal collection of fine and rare instruments such as the famous Stradivarius known as The Rising Sun, along with other instruments by Amati, Guarneri and Lupot etc, the Laberte firm produced their own ‘copies’ and models of these and Vuillaume’s own instruments. Of which the above violin is one. They were listed in their catalogue as of the finer quality, probably designed more for advancing students and professionals.
As can be seen from the available catalogue excerpts the first ‘Copie Vuillaume’ listed is remarkably similar in appearance to the violin offered for sale here. Notice the subtle antiquing around the centre of the back along with the upper and lower bouts. The price of 37.50 francs suggests a much higher quality of violin than the some of the lesser student models which retailed for less than half this figure.
Unfortunately the firm didn’t survive through the economic crisis following the Second World War, and Philippe, Marc’s son was forced to close Laberte-Humbert in 1968, leaving behind a large number of very well made and well respected violins which are still appreciated by musicians around the world today.
This is a very beautiful and characteristic example of Labertes output during the early 20th Century. In excellent condition the vioiln produces a fine, bright sound with plenty of complexity and power. A great choice for an advancing student.
The length of the back is
Laberte Copie de J B Vuillaume, circa 1900