Lot 43
  • 43

SANTO SERAFIN | (b Udine, 1699; d 1758) A CELLO, VENICE, circa 1741

500,000 - 700,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • (b Udine, 1699; d 1758) A CELLO, VENICE, circa 1741
  • length of back 72.7cm; 28 5/8in.
labelled Sanctus Seraphin Utinensis Fecit Venetijs Ann. 1741 and branded Santo Serafin by the end pin Sold with a photocopy of the certificate of Hamma & Co., Stuttgart, dated 17th January 1977.  


Les Violons, Venetian Instruments, catalogue of the 1995 Paris exhibition, pp. 162-165.

Catalogue Note

Santo Serafin is one of the best-known of the many great violin makers who worked in Venice throughout the eighteenth century, but he stands significantly apart from his contemporaries in almost all aspects of his work. Highly prolific in his production of violins, his cellos are exceptionally rare. Serafin came to Venice in 1717 from neighbouring Udine, where he was born in 1699. After presumably serving an apprenticeship with one of the existing workshops in the city, he began labelling his own instruments in 1725. His induction into the Musician’s Guild in 1733 allowed him to establish his own premises in the Calle dei Stagneri in that same year. Unusually amongst luthiers of the period he retired from business after some eleven years, but he continued to make instruments until at least 1758. His work is characterised by fastidious craftsmanship, a trait not so common amongst Venetian makers, and a well-regulated model following Amati patterns. He seems to have enjoyed extending the more decorative elements of the scroll and purfling into discreet displays of skill and markers of his own personal hand, with elements of technique that are not found in other makers’ work. Almost invariably, his instruments are clothed in beautifully applied rich red varnish that is a shared feature of most Venetian makers.

This cello of circa 1741 from the Rostropovich collection is a very rare gem. The makers in Venice, a well-supplied centre of eighteenth century trade, do seem to have had an enviable choice of materials, and the wood and varnish are quite breathtaking in quality. What is striking about the form is how much it resembles a scaled-up violin rather than a cello, with long and very elegant corners that almost seem a little out of proportion. The soundholes are distinctively slender, with relatively small finial circles, and it is in the scroll that Serafin’s clearest signature can be discerned, in the tightly controlled spiral extending slightly further behind the eye than is common. From the distinctively ornate printed label to the vibrantly coloured varnish, this cello is a singular piece of superb and flamboyant craftsmanship.