French violin labeled "Eugene Henry", Mirecourt circa 1900
The tradition of violin making in Mirecourt dates back to the 1560s when the quaint town first became associated with famous Cremonese workshops. The noblemen from Lorraine often made excursions into Italy and brought back musical instruments, particularly violins, as presents to French royalty.
Located in the heart of Vosges mountains, Mirecourt has easy access to quality tone woods and also to Italian violin makers. To meet the growing demand for violins, businessman and violin maker Didier Nicolas was among the first to establish a large-scale manufacturing firm. Luthiers at this time initially replicated the Cremona design—then largely made for Italian consumers and select foreign clients—and turned Mirecourt into one of the most important and productive suppliers of violins to a rapidly growing market in France and overseas by the end of the 19th century. As a result, many French luthier names became well-known around the world, including Breton, Buthod, Collin-Mézin, Derazey, Dieudonné, Grandjon, Laberte, Mangeot, Mougenot, Thibouville, and most notably, Vuillaume.
More recently, the École Nationale de Lutherie was founded in the 1970s and Mirecourt’s enduring legacy in the art of violin making is preserved at the Musée de la lutherie et de l'archèterie française.