Ben Hebbert

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    Violin dealer and researcher based in central London. Visit my website, or email to arrange a visit. My stock ranges from fine contemporary makers to outstanding classic Italian instruments.

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  1. The scroll of that one looks surprisingly close to the clean work of Jack Lott. Just sayin'....
  2. Reading this with interest... in a past life I spent three years as an apprentice at Stanley Gibbons (and another three years working there part time through college), so although that was more stamps and historic memorabilia, there are many similar issues. What I have difficulty with is that whether the customs of baseball card collecting establish that it is unethical to restore cards or not, that really has very little to do with the law. Where the problem arises is how they are sent to the assessor. Although it's pushing close to the line, if I was to restore a card, and press the expertiser to give it an AAA listing, then I think there would be a kind of fraud going on. However, if I simply submit it for them to make a judgement without prejudging it myself, then I don't think that I have done anything wrong. It seems as a result that as prices go up, the expertisers should evolve with the market - i.e. bringing better technology to bear on higher value cards, and equally by reconsidering how restored cards are viewed on the market. The fact of the matter is that a convincing restoration is a very difficult thing to achieve and hide easily, and will only be an issue on a tiny number of very high value cards. In the end it feels unlikely to me that there is any criminal case that can be brought, unless the expertisers could be shown to be working in league with the restorers to defraud the sellers. It's frankly more important with todays printing to look out for reproductions. There are questions that extend to our own market, about the representation of goods. It seems that the Voller brothers simply put instruments in auction to let experts decide if they were Testores, Gaglianos or not. That is entirely "fair", whilst coercing Puttick and Simpson to fraudulently describe them as "by" would have been a criminal act. These things are very real for us, especially when we are being lent on by customers who want to believe we can sell an instrument on their behalf with the same attribution that they have concluded for themselves, or that they once bought it with. It is a good lesson to all of us in the discipline of impartiality that has to be a vital part of expertise.
  3. Sadly it won't ship to the UK, so that rules me out.
  4. Ben Hebbert

    Back Cleats

    Some really good points here. Indeed, there are distinctive shapes to cleats as well, and certainly in Mirecourt work, there are differences from different periods, so there can be quite a lot of information that can be observed from them. However, the question as posed is a bit too general to give a helpful answer, but certainly there are many styles and techniques of making cleats, and some of these can be highly telling both as original work and as repairs. It's worth adding parchment strips, and cross-grained wooden strips to the other methods of reinforcing a centre joint that can be highly indicative of a particular maker.
  5. I'm slightly surprised no one has mentioned the excellent monograph on this particular violin... as for the wings, the wood is the same as on the Medici violas and cello of the same year, and for the same order to the Medicis, it seems he was willing to make these compromises in order to achieve a matching set.
  6. For what it’s worth, I had the pleasure of seeing no less than four Gaspar da Salo double basses in a fortnight some years ago and noticed that all of them had a central stave. I’d offer the hypothesis that the genesis of this comes from da Salo’s double basses where there is real incentive to avoid carving out the mass of the belly. It quite likely trickled through into the viol making tradition from that. In very early instruments bending by various means seems to have been at least as common, and possibly more so, than conventional carved tops.
  7. Dear me, this is getting convoluted. $400 - 600,000 is a good price for a good Italian cello by a second tier maker from the 18th century. I would not go around looking for price comparables by the same maker, because these are rare, but I would have a look at what comparable cellos by comparable makers sell for. I think if you research down that line you will find reassurance about the price presuming that the condition is acceptable. To know that, you really need to take professional advice and have the instrument inspected in person. As for the Goffriller scroll, there are very simple starting points. If the varnish doesn't match the rest of the instrument, then it's not original. It is easy to distinguish these things and there are many reasons why a scroll can migrate from one instrument to another over time. Michelangelo Bergonzi's work is extremely recognisable, and follows a specific path as a direct continuation of his father's work, and coming from the broader Cremonese tradition Dom Nicolo Amati also is extremely recognisable, and follows a totally different pattern coming from wider Bolognese work. You don't have to have seen another cello specifically to be confident of an attribution, if you have seen other violins and find a convincing match. This is same for all most makers. in summary, it feels that you are over-worrying about things, and would be far better off seeking advice from people who can inspect the cello, rather than asking opinions without revealing any more about it. You really will end up running circles around yourself needlessly this way, as no one can give you sound and authoritative advice without knowledge of the instrument itself, however good their theoretical knowledge may be. Fundamentally, I think the odds of the certificate being problematic on something like this, as expressed above, are simply too small to be given any credence.
  8. That's a very splendid thing all round - the violin and the bridge! Good luck with it. I'd be awfully tempted to reinstate the bridge as so much of it looks to be original, but I guess that would be a hard sell.
  9. Dendrochronology has had a lot of bad press since the late 1990s which really emanates from the trust that was placed on Prof. Peter Klein's report on the Messiah, how it was used and the fact that it was ultimately discredited. Thereafter as the discipline evolved various people got on board the bandwagon with rather dubious and scientifically unrigorous methods. They have largely moved on, but not without causing lasting damage. More recently, just sheer nincompoopery, such as a recent privately published book on the Messiah that simply uses out of date sources and betrays a thorough lack of understanding in the science, but contributes to the heresay that it it is open to be questioned when this could not be further from the truth. I write that to give a taste of why this question is often asked about dendrochronology. However, perhaps the most important thing about the Topham & McCormick method that was developed in the late 1990s is that every single result is logged on a database, and every new result is crossmatched with the whole database. It actually goes as far as to say that the "date" importance is almost secondary in some cases to the understanding of what instruments your example cross matches - or fails to cross match. For example, a while ago I submitted a potentially Florentine instrument for examination, and it came up with hundreds of French cross matches and not a single Italian one. It provided information that confirmed a direction of research that ultimately yielded results. In consequence, using a dendrochonologist such as John Topham or Peter Ratcliff has the advantage of this process of cross matching against vast databases.. Dates can indeed be helpful too, and for a layman can provide absolute proof. I recently had a correspondent who claimed to have a del Gesu which I disputed, and ultimately I recommended a dendro on the basis that it would settle the matter scientifically, rather than prevaricating about stylistic points on poor photographs which would only embitter him further. Furthermore, dendrochronologists using the computer method are able to rate cross matches statistically - ultimately there can be random shadow results that look good but are not. Neither Topham nor Ratcliff will publish a result unless it has a statistical value of T=8, which is very high, and if no result meets that bar, they will report no result even if there may arguably be trace readings that inevitably are of ahem.. "interest". Lastly, nothing is ever simple. Often instruments won't render a result for one reason or another. Often also a result may be completely nebulous, especially if the purpose of the dendro is to authenticate an instrument that is a mystery to the experts in the first place. So it works exceptionally well on the instruments it is good for, but the absence of a result has to be regarded neutrally and not as a black mark against the instrument. It is never the be all and end all, except when eliminating possibilities by virtue of a strong later date. Peter Ratcliff's video here is excellent. Well recommended.
  10. Generally speaking for historic English instruments of this kind, the length of the neck is equal to the width across the lower bouts.... it seems that the string length arises from the geometrical incidences rather than a proportioned ratio. There is obviously some allowance for the angle of the neck. Very good luck!
  11. I guess the angels in the heavens need someone to string their harps. Good luck to him up there.
  12. Last time I ordered Gold Brokat, I ordered 1000 of them that's how much I love them!!!! Except for that, ditto what Melvin said (oh, and they are totally gorgeous on my Rodolfo Romano, never knew I'd rate a semi-modern Italian violin so highly!)
  13. This is a recent revelation to me too, I always assumed that no one would be daft enough to make the scroll higher than the pegbox, but it is certainly a feature of some original English necks, including, rather surprisingly, Henry Lockey Hill. We correct it when we do neck grafts...
  14. W.E.H&S is essentially a pre-retford brand, so its before about 1920. The grading was different then from what it was afterwards, so these bows - normally very dark wood with a plain frog, tend to be absolutely excellent.
  15. Hello, 

    I saw your 2006 post about Collingwood, and was wondering if you still have photographs of that violin, it would be very interesting for me to see it, or indeed if you have the violin. I have another, and am writing an article on the maker. 


    My thanks