Voller Brothers

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William Voller (born 1860) and brothers Charles and Arthur, worked in Streatham, London, from 1885 to 1927.

Charles Beare said this of them: “The most ingenious copyists are acknowledged to be William, Charles and Alfred Voller. The brothers were all accomplished musicians whose acquaintances included such well known figures as Wilhelmj and Tertis as well as having business contacts in various parts of Europe. By 1892 they were working for George Hart in London and several of their early instruments bear his label. After setting up independently they embarked on numerous copies of lesser-known makers as well as the more obvious names that include some dangerously convincing imitations of the Gagliano Family."

William Voller was also doing some work as a painter and sculptor through the 1890s.

The brothers also made fine reproductions of Guarneri del Gesu that rank amongst their finest work. These include copies of the d'Egville of 1735 and several versions of the "Leduc" of 1743/5 which had been brought to Britain by the collector David Laurie before passing through the hands of Hart and in 1894, the Hills.

Some copies of well-documented instruments should have been safe from fraudulent abuse but controversy did arise over a Stradivari copy that became known as the 'Balfour Strad'.[1]

"Balfour & Co. by 1901 had already set themselves up as violin experts but in fact were shipping, passenger, and commission agents with little knowledge of the violin world. They claim to have discovered a “Stradivari of 1692, the finest in the world for sale at £1,000.” The violin was originally sold by William Voller to Balfour for £45 with no attempt to defraud or mislabel and thus takes its name from the company that subsequently offered it for sale. Balfours’ exploited this ‘find’ in a remarkable way; certificates given with enthusiasm and florid descriptions were gathered from Silvestre-Maucotel, Gustav Bernardel, Nestor Audinot, C.A. Chanot, F.W. Chanot and the wholesale firm of Beare & Sons - George Hart, J. &A. Beare and W.E. Hill & Sons were conspicuous by their absence. These certificates with translations surround Balfour & Co.’s general guarantee document. After an unsuccessful attempt to sell it at Puttnick's (where it was bought in) it was sold privately for £2,500. This prompted an anonymus letter stating : "You know it is only a clever "Fake" and signed "One who knows who made it". Once the new owner of the "Balfour" violin realized his mistake, civil court proceedings were instigated that resulted in an out-of-court settlement." [2]

Today the Voller Brothers are considered the most remarkable imitators of old Italian instruments, unequalled and unrivalled by anyone else before of after them. In recent times their notoriety as imitators and copyists has finally been eclipsed by the breathtaking craftsmanship of their accomplishment: a massive revival of interest in their work is in evidence – very much has been written about them, all in superlatives, and the British Violin Making Association has recently produced a book about them. Owning a real Voller is now very much in vogue and their instruments are being sought by collectors and musicians alike, not only because of the former notoriety of these men, but because of what these instruments are – truly remarkable testimonies of the highest order of craftmanship and skill, rivalling the finest work of the leading violinmakers of the 19th century.

”Perfect replicas of any model, exhibiting with matchless exactitude the skill and imagination of the renowned Vuillaume. Appearance of wear and age marvelously accomplished. Superior in every way (…). Smallest details perfectly represented and very skillfully finished. Instruments splendidly desirable as regards the picturesque, and certainly adequate for all requirements of first-class players. (…) Finest wood carefully selected for its acoustic properties.”[3]

"The Voller brothers, who worked in England in the late 19th century, were legendary masters of craftiness and deceit--a nightmare," said Philip Kass


  • The Voller Brothers: Victorian violin makers by John Dilworth, Andrew Fairfax, John Milnes


  1. ^ Voller Brothers
  2. ^ VIOLIN FRAUD - Deception, Forgery, Theft, and the Law Brian W. Harvey
  3. ^ William, Henley (1969). Universal Dictionary of Violin & Bow Makers. Brighton; England: Amati. ISBN 0-901424-00-5.
  • Philip Kass
  • Charles Beare
  • The Voller Brothers: A colour preview - Andrew Fairfax
  • Published in The Strad magazine Vol. 104 No. 1233 January 1993
  • Vannes, Rene (1985) [1951]. Dictionnaire Universel del Luthiers (vol.3). Bruxelles: Les Amis de la musique. OCLC 53749830.
  • William, Henley (1969). Universal Dictionary of Violin & Bow Makers. Brighton; England: Amati. ISBN 0-901424-00-5.

"Balfour" Strad[edit]

  • VIOLIN FRAUD - Deception, Forgery, Theft, and the Law Brian W. Harvey

"..... ‘Balfour’ Strad, first illustrated in 1901. It is well known (now) that this instrument is the work of the Voller Bros."

External links[edit]