Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Guide to the Jacques Français Rare Violins, Inc. Photographic Archive and Business Records

Collection ID:
Herrmann, Emil, 1888-1968
Francais, Jacques, 1923-2004
1844-1998, undated
Collection is in
. Some materials in
, and
Physical Description:
33.3 Cubic feet
61 document boxes, 30 binder boxes, 5 flat oversize
Jacques Français was a preeminent luthier, violin expert, and dealer in rare stringed instruments. Emil Herrmann was also a violin expert and dealer in rare violins. This collection contains photographic prints, negatives, certificates of authenticity, and sale books related to their business as dealers and authenticators of rare stringed instruments.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
This collection consists of a wide-ranging photographic survey of rare stringed musical instruments and bows. Many of these photographs were made in support of creating certificates of authenticity for a wide variety of stringed instruments. The photographs date exclusively to the 20th century and were the product of both the Français and Emil Herrmann rare violin shops. The collection also contains sale books from the Français violin atelier in Paris and New York and a small number of office files from the Français New York shop. There are minimal correspondence and office files, from either the Herrmann or Français shop, within the collection.

The collection is arranged into four series.
Series 1: Stringed Instrument Certificates and Photographic Reference Files, 1927-1979, undated
Series 2: Bow Certificates and Photographic Reference Files, 1988-1990, undated
Series 3: Emil Herrmann Photographic Negatives, 1931-1959, undated
Subseries 3.1: Violins, undated
Subseries 3.2: Bows, Labels and Checks, 1939-1951, undated
Series 4: Sale Books, Receipts, and Office Files, Programs, 1844-1998

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Jacques Français was born in Paris, France on July 3, 1924 the son of Emile Français and Lucile Caressa. His ancestry can be traced to the French town Mirecourt in Lorraine, the traditional center of French violin production. Jacques's grandfather, Henri Français, was an official violin maker to the Paris Conservatory. His maternal grandfather, Albert Caressa, was a violin and cello dealer. The House of Caressa & Français was one of the world's renowned violin making and repair shops. They had acquired the former House of Gustave Bernardel in 1901 (the former House of Gand & Bernardel Freres in Paris founded by Nicolas Lupot in 1796). Henri sold his share in the business to Albert at the end of World War I. The House of Caressa was eventually taken over by Emile Français in 1938. The shop remained open during the German occupation of Paris in World War II and closed in 1981 after the death of Lucile Caressa Français. The Paris shop was patronized by some of the greatest names in music.
Jacques Français's early training was in the Paris shop, beginning work at the bench at age twelve. At age eighteen he was apprenticed to violin maker Victor Aubry in Normandy. He completed his apprenticeship with George Apparut in Mirecourt. He then worked in his father's shop on Rue de Madrid and in the shop of Fridolin Hamma in Stuttgart, Germany. He was sent to New York City in 1947 and worked under Simone Sacconi in the shop of Rembert Wurlitzer. After a year Jacques returned to Paris to work in his father's establishment. A year later, Jacques returned to the United States and opened his own shop in New York on 57th St. near Carnegie Hall. He pursued a career in the repair and sale of rare violins independent of his father. Over the course of its lifetime the shop became well-known and was patronized by many of the preeminent names in the concert world.
Many photographic images in the Français Archive originate with rare violin dealer Emil Herrmann. Herrmann maintained a shop at 148 W. 57th St., New York City and later at 161 W. 57th St., just opposite Carnegie Hall and even later at 130 W. 57th St. After Herrmann's retirement, Français acquired his extensive certificate and photographic archive. In 1964, renowned luthier Rene A. Morel joined the Français shop and became a close business and personal associate of Français. Morel and Français worked together for the next thirty years. In 1985, Emmanuel Gradoux-Matt was employed by Jacques Français. He became shop foreman in 1990. On February 1, 1994 Jacques Français, Rare Violins, Inc. ceased business at 250 W. 54th Street. Morel and Gradoux-Matt remained at that address and renamed the company René A. Morel Rare Violins, Inc. Jacques Français died in New York City on February 4, 2004. He left a widow, Beatrice Français, and one surviving daughter, Isabelle Français. His nephew, Gael Francais, a student of both Francais and Morel, continues the family luthier tradition.
References (Copies may be found in the Archives Center control file): Français, Gael. "The Français House of Violin Making: A Retrospective," Journal, Violin Society of America, Volume XIX, No. 3, 2005, pgs. 3-22.
Martin, Douglas. "Jacques Francais, 80, Dealer in String Instruments, Dies," The New York Times, Febuary 8, 2004.
Miller, Stephen. "Jacques, Francais, 80, Dealer in Rare Violins," The New York Sun, Weekend Edition, undated.

Franklin A. Robinson, Jr
Preservation and processing of this collection was made possible by generous support from The Herbert and Evelyn Axelrod Endowment, The Friends of Music at the Smithsonian, and Beatrice Français, widow of Jacques Français.
Processing Information
Processed by Franklin A. Robinson, Jr., archives technician; supervised by Vanessa Broussard-Simmons, archivist, assisted by interns Anne Cnockaert, David DeAngelis, Veronica Gonzales, Amanda Leinberger, and John Mask, 2006.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
This collection was bequeathed to the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Archives Center, by Jacques Français in 2004.
Separated Materials
The National Museum of American History, Division of Music, Sports and Entertainment (now Division of Cultural and Community Life) holds instruments associated with the Fran‡ais atelier, most notably the Axelrod Quartet of Antonio Stradivarius instruments (See accession numbers, 2000.0013, .01, .02, .03, .04).

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research use.
Researchers must use gloves when viewing this collection.
Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Preferred Citation
The Jacques Français Rare Violins, Inc. Archive, Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Appraisals Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Certificates Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Musical instruments Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs -- 20th century Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Stringed instruments Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Violin Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012
Business Number: Phone: 202-633-3270
Fax Number: Fax: 202-786-2453