A Danish-Italian Violin By Amon Bilmark From South Africa, 1937
Amon Bilmark (1894-1961) was born in Copenhagen, Denmark as Amon Peter Nielsen but changed his surname in 1917. Though he settled in Durban, South Africa in 1929, where he established a workshop and made instruments until his death, his violins are predominantly considered to be Italian or Danish-Italian due to his training. He spent several years working with Simone Sacconi in Rome and maintained a lifelong friendship with his mentor. Sacconi’s influence and the modern Italian style are unmistakable in Bilmark’s craftsmanship and highly detailed work, for which he earned an international reputation during his own lifetime. He was endowed with the Diplome d’Honneur at the Belgian International Violin Making Competition at La Haye in 1949. Bilmark’s work is rare and desirable, with much of it purchased by players and collectors in Denmark.
In 1952, during the Apartheid, Bilmark hired a young South African man Reddy Pragasen to clean the workshop and took him on as an apprentice the following year, teaching him everything he knew but often rushing him out the back for fear of reprisal as less progressive clients arrived at the workshop. They worked together in secret for years and much of their letter correspondence has been digitized. Pragasen was still working as a violin maker at the age of 73 in 2005.
This desirable Danish-Italian violin from South Africa by Amon Bilmark was made in 1937 and bears the maker’s original label in its belly. It features a striking one piece back of tight, irregularly flamed maple with a descending pattern which measures exactly 356mm in length; matching wood selection for the ribs and headstock, with a tight grained spruce that widens outward. The edge work, demonstrating a consistent bead and a pronounced channel from the outermost strip of ebony purfling, executed with finesse ane leading perfectly into the corners for a distinctly midcentury Italian aesthetic. The f-holes, Guarnerian, with a softer fluting through the lower wings, well executed but not nearing the beauty of the scroll - the volutes, resounding with mastery in precision and form. Finished in a golden-orange oil varnish of dazzling balance between richness of color and transparency.