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Yale acquires Petryn Collection, including Amati & Guarneri violins

Collection also includes two violins of German make, three bows by French archetier François Tourte, and twelve bows by other important archetiers
September 9, 2014

Nicolò Amati, Cremona, 1679

The Yale Collection of Musical Instruments has acquired the Andrew F. Petryn Collection of String Instruments and Bows, director William Purvis is pleased to announce. The collection of more than twenty objects was received in bequest following Mr. Petryn’s death in October 2013. Highlights include violins by Italian masters Nicolò Amati and Andrea Guarneri, and three bows by the pre-eminent French archetier François Tourte.

The Guarneri and Amati violins are magnificent examples of the work of two great representatives of the famed Cremonese school of string instrument making. They are in an especially fine state of preservation, and their provenances are well documented over the many generations that have ensued since they left the hands of their makers over four centuries ago.

In addition, the collection also comprises two violins of German make and twelve more bows by important archetiers, among them Jean Adam, Jacques LaFleur, François Nicolas Voirin, James Dodd, and Albert Nürnberger.

Andrew Petryn. Portrait by Deane Keller

Andrew Petryn. Portrait by Deane Keller

Andrew Petryn was born in New Haven on Christmas Day 1918. He received his primary and secondary education in the city’s public schools. Precocious as a child in both music and art, he made a career choice for the latter when he accepted a scholarship to the Yale School of Art, where he earned the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. He went for further training at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and at Harvard’s Fogg Museum.

As a young man, he took a position at the Yale Art Gallery in conservation and rose to the position of Chief Conservator. Andy gained a wide reputation in the art world for his advocacy of conservation—as opposed to restoration—of art works that derived from his belief that restoration often was mistakenly undertaken with the illusory idea that a painting could be to its “original” appearance (i.e., the way it looked on the day it was completed). He believed that conservation, on the other hand, should attempt to demonstrate the unadulterated work of the artist, and as far as possible to most faithfully reveal and preserve the artist’s original intent. To attain that end, he became a pioneer in developing techniques grounded in physics, chemistry, and even electron microscopy.

Andrea Guarneri, Cremona, 1672

Throughout his life, Andy cultivated his love of music. An exceptionally talented violinist, he frequently played chamber music with Yale School of Music faculty members, including Aldo Parisot and Broadus Erle, in informal soirées. His special knowledge and skills as an art conservator led him to develop a keen interest in the history and construction of the violin. He was a habitué of the ateliers of the leading violin maker/dealers in New York, often in the company of legendary figures in the violin world such as Heifetz, Milstein, Szigeti, and Francescatti at a time when their careers were at their apogees.

A friend of Richard Rephann, former director of YCMI, Andy was a charter member of the museum’s Board of Advisors. In recognition of his long service on the Board as well as his generous donation of time and talent in restoring one of the Collection’s prized oil paintings, he was named an Honorary Life Member of the Associates of the museum in 2004. Prior to the present bequest, he had donated two interesting French bowed string instruments: a quinton (or pardessus de viole) by Nicolas Augustin Chappuy (Paris, ca. 1770) and a pochette (dancing master’s fiddle) of anonymous make from the early 19th century. Both were given to the Collection in 2010.

The Petryn Collection is a very important addition to the museum’s fine collection of bowed string instruments. Plans are underway for a special exhibit of this important acquisition to open during the coming season.

The Little Flute Player, Attributed to John Opie (1761–1807). Oil on canvas. Yale Collection of Musical Instruments, Belle Skinner Collection. Restored by Andrew Petryn.

The Little Flute Player, Attributed to John Opie (1761–1807). Oil on canvas. Yale Collection of Musical Instruments, Belle Skinner Collection. Restored by Andrew Petryn.

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