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The Oxford Conference 2017: Messiah 301

The Messiah 301 Conference followed the tercentenary homecoming to Cremona of Stradivari’s fabled violin, the Messiah of 1716. It was already the object of myth and speculation before it emerged into public view with Vuillaume’s purchase of the violin in 1854, and mythology has surrounded it ever since. Much of the research conducted in the last ten or twenty years however, has set about a systematic forensic approach to the violin. John Topham’s dendrochronology is now informed by the study of many hundreds of Cremonese violins, and he is able to make focussed observations about which instruments have high statistical correlations with the wood of the Messiah, and on what they are. Brigitte Brandmair’s analysis of varnish shows elements common to other Cremonese instruments that could not be detected with 19th century technology and that are not found outside of classical Italian work. Finally, analysis of CT scans of the Messiah not only demonstrated very consistent workmanship to typical Stradivarian techniques, but perhaps of greatest forensic interest was the way that the internal blocks could be fitted up to the spaces for them in Stradivari’s PG mould that survives in the Museo del Violino in Cremona. Although each one of these scientific approaches could be subject to debate, the overall forensic argument in which the authenticity of the violin was corroborated by independent means ultimately puts forward the strongest case for it’s authenticity independent of the claims of experts and of those who have attempted to sensationalise doubt about the instrument.

Added to the core forensic analysis of the instrument, the BVMA invited speakers who could speak authoritatively on the aspects of the Messiah and the counter narratives that could be explored.

Organising Committee
Benjamin Hebbert
Bruno Guastella
Philip Ihle

Speakers (by order of apperance)
Colin Harrison, Keeper at The Ashmolean Museum
Benjamin Hebbert
Myth and the Messiah: The Controversy of the Messiah in History
Carlo Chiesa
The Messiah in Italy: Stradivari’s workshop to Luigi Tarisio
John Topham
The Dating Game: Dedrochonology since 2000.
Brigitte Brandmair
Stradivari’s Varnish: Forensic analysis as it relates to the Messiah.
Bruce Carlson
Stradivari vs. Vuillaume: Analysis of working methods and tradition.
Gregg Alf
Inside the Messiah: CT-Scans
Stephan von Baehr & Emilio Crabbè
Copying the Messiah