Pierre Silvestre


Pierre Silvestre was born in Sommerviller not far from Nancy. He apprenticed in nearby Mirecourt, which had been a thriving center of violinmaking since the 17th century. After finishing his training, Silvestre moved to Paris, where he worked for Nicolas Lupot (1758–1824) and then for Charles François Gand (1787–1845). In 1829, he started his own business in Lyon. His younger brother, Hippolyte Silvestre (1808–1879), also became a luthier and also settled in Lyon after working for Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume (1798–1875). The brothers operated the workshop together from 1831. The instruments crafted during the following period rank among the best built in France at the time. In 1848, Hippolyte withdrew from the business, but Pierre continued to operate the shop alone until his death. Hippolyte then returned to the workshop for a brief period to prepare the handover of the business to his nephew, Hippolyte Chrétien (1845–1913), who had also trained as a violinmaker in Mirecourt. Hippolyte Chrétien was able to take over the workshop in 1865. He transferred the business to Paris from 1884, where the company operated until the 20th century under the name Silvestre & Maucotel.

String instruments built according to the French tradition differ from their Italian counterparts with respect to some minor construction details. Unlike in Cremona, the bodies of French instruments were made in an outer mold rather than on an inner mold. Even so, the Silvestre brothers based their instruments above all on the Stradivari model. The arches as well as the cut of the f-holes conform to those of Stradivari’s Golden Period instruments. A few instruments were styled on work by Guarneri del Gesù. The rich, reddish-brown varnish is characteristic of the Silvestre brothers’ instruments.