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A Charmed Life: Eugenio Praga and Paganini

Italian Violin and Bow, Eugenio Praga, Genoa, 1892 (Lot 104, Estimate: $30,000-50,000)

Four centuries of music-making tradition cross the auction block at Skinner, with works of Hendrik Jacobs, Giovanni Battista Gabrielli, Charles François Gand, and Eugenio Praga. With approximately 360 lots on offer, including a broad selection of violins, violas, violon cellos, and their bows, the June 2 auction will also feature a collection of contemporary classical and flamenco guitars, in addition to vintage fretted instruments by Gibson and C.F. Martin.

Detail showing the violin labeled EUGENIO PRAGA/Premiato con Medaglia/D’ORO/Fece in Genova anno 1892

The son of a wealthy engineer and educated as an engineer himself, Eugenio Praga’s apparently charmed life afforded him the luxury of pursuing a career in lutherie out of intellectual curiosity rather than financial necessity. All of which circumstances allowing the 19th-century Italian violin maker to indulge his interests at his own pace – as violin restorer, bow maker, medal winner, and caretaker to one of the world’s most famous violins: Nicolò Paganini’s Guarneri del Gesù, the “Cannon.” The lattermost experience may well have been the most formative, as the last decade of Praga’s limited output of instruments is dotted with thoughtful, personal interpretations of Paganini’s violin.

Detail showing the stamp E.PRAGA.GENOVA

Lot 104, an Italian Violin and Bow by Eugenio Praga, Genoa, 1892 (Estimate: $30,000-50,000), is significant for several reasons, least of which is the fact that it has remained virtually untouched, complete with original bridge and bow, since its arrival in America more than a hundred years ago, and in the care of the descendants of the original owner. The violin is a pure example of Praga’s “Cannon”-inspired model, made at the height of the maker’s craft.


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