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29th January 2020

Is this the Ex-J. S. Bach?

Click here to view this instrument in our March fine sale.

This very fine viola da gamba was made by Johann Christian Hoffmann in Leipzig in approximately 1730, and could quite easily be the instrument left by Hoffmann to his friend Johann Sebastian Bach. In Hoffman’s last will and testament, he refers particularly to his instrument collection, specifying that it is to be dispersed amongst his closest friends (“If musical instruments made by my death are my own, not all of them should be sold, but my dear friends : 1.) H. D. George Andreas Joachim, 2.) Mr. Capellmeister Johann Sebastian Bach, 3.) Mr. Johann David Kirsch, 4.) Mr. Johann Christian Weÿrauch, 5.) Mr. Carl Gotthelff Gerlach, shall divide…[and] can take away from them according to their favour, keep the others along with you named friends…”). Very few of Hoffmann’s gamba’s remain today, but we do know that Bach owned one of his instruments.

Despite being made nearly three hundred years ago this example is in excellent condition (it has been owned and played by a musician for the past thirty years or more, and can be heard on many fine recordings), and has clearly been held in high regard, and looked after carefully throughout its varied and long playing life.

This instrument will be consigned to Brompton’s forthcoming March fine sale.
Contact us for more information or to book a private viewing.


Johann Christian Hoffmann (1683 – 1750) was a German violin and lute maker. He was the eldest son and student of the violin maker Martin Hoffmann (1654–1719). By 1712, it is known that he was the instrument maker for the Polish Royal Court and the Electors of Saxony, in addition to supplying musical instruments for the Dresden chapel . Based in Leipzig, he was generally considered to be one of the best German instrument builders of his time. His instruments were highly prized for the quality of their tone and were thus in high demand. Four violins, two cellos, and a double bass from the period between 1715 and 1732 are listed in the inventory of the Köthener Hofkapelle . In around 1724 he built the first viola pomposa at the suggestion of his close friend Johann Sebastian Bach. From 1734, Bach also engaged him to maintain the instruments for the Leipzig Thomas und Nikolaikirche. Approximately forty of his instruments have survived, many of which are now on display at the Museum of Musical Instruments at the University of Leipzig and the Germanic National Museum in Nuremberg.

This instrument is consigned to Brompton’s March sale. Contact us for more information or to book a private viewing.