Ben Hebbert

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About Ben Hebbert

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

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  1. Ben Hebbert

    How Do Auction Houses Grade Violins?

    Interesting isn't it. I've had that particular violin in my hand, and as an ensemble, it is a deeply impressive instrument (I have a feeling the front is Forster, fwiw), regardless of it being a composite. BUT yes, as I am instantly uncomfortable about it being a "fine example of" Stainer's work, because clearly it can't be.
  2. Ben Hebbert

    English violin question

    I'm very happy with the one on Tarisio. Smith's violins commonly have exquisite inked purfling, which is so good that you wonder if it would have been easier to just inlay them instead. However, there are elements of the carving of the edges that they forgo when ink purfling is applied. I also have a very fine example with purfling, and as a result it has the fine built up edges that you would expect on a genuine Stainer. It's evident that these must have been sold at two different qualities - fine and super fine. The varnish appears to be applied differently, so purfled ones seem thinner and more refined in the varnish but in both cases there seems to be an ingredient that oxidises, so they always end up rather muddy in colour. I would add that the button graft means that the violin has lost its pins at the top. The large one is a bit bigger than I expect, but Smith did use a pin system that resembles Cremonese on the whole.
  3. Ben Hebbert

    London violin shops( cello searching)

    May have the perfect thing - do email me violins@hebberts.com
  4. Ben Hebbert

    Origin of Fractional Size Designations

    Kevin's comments above certainly ring true to the old wives tales that I've heard too. It is CERTAINLY true that the small violins of brothers Amati, Strad and del Gesu are the basic size of what we call a quarter-sized violin. I certainly think it is the best explanation. In this regard, its worth pointing out too that there were many requirements for instruments of all sorts of smaller sizes before 1800 without defaulting to the assumption that they were child's instruments. Although there may be a huge amount of debate about what these were intended for, without necessarily providing satisfactory answers, I tend to think that the default of "child's violin" is inevitably a cop-out, though clearly some of them may have been exactly that.
  5. Ben Hebbert

    J Panormo cello?

    I'm here! Jacob, thank you - I take this cello reasonably seriously, but sadly, this is exactly the kind of instrument where photographs are next to useless unless they are shot really well, and even then the fine elements that make something a Joseph Panormo can really need to have physical inspection. The fact that the ribs come out a nice yellow, whilst the front and back seem to be a nice hot red makes me want to simply see better photographs before making any comments that require me to butter my hat and order a king-sized tub of Nutella to make it easier to digest. In sum this does look "like" the Betts workshop Stradivari form which the Hills liked to connect to Henry Lockey Hill as a copy of the King of Prussia's lost cello. Although we may see that both from HLH, and Joseph Panormo who was obviously working very closely with him, I think it also leaks into a slightly broader diaspora of "Betts school" instruments, Fendts, Powells, etc, which often got upgraded to Panormo - even the Hills were not completely reliable on this. (There are even issues of Panormo selling instruments of his close contemporaries as his own). As a result I have to urge the maximum of caution. Panormo-family instruments really are too difficult because of all the near-misses within their community. I would not like to say anything further without better photographs. I hope that doesn't sound curmudgeonly of me.
  6. Ben Hebbert

    Early Amati with three peg holes?

    Joel By English tradition, these pegs in old instruments is supposed to be an old Bavarian tradition, at least according to Hills. The only maker that I know of who consistently has these from new is Johannes Cuypers, which puts the kybosh on it being Bavarian. I would argue on these Amatis that from your evidence, their precise placement varies considerably from instrument to instrument. In my mind this suggests a later practice, perhaps in the French court to accomdate new kinds of strings rather than something by the maker.
  7. Ben Hebbert

    Early Amati with three peg holes?

    Manfio , No high renaissance / high baroque painters paint playing in a realistic way. In the case of this Ecstacy o St Cecilia by Guido Reni, you anyway need to consider what the picture means and where he took his prototypes from - Raphael's Ecstacy of St Cecilia - in both examples mortal music gives way to heavenly music, so she is distracted from her playing by the celestial choirs of angels. Aside from this, the issues of Ekphrasis and the Paragone - i.e. the rivalry between the arts / the muses means that most painters of the past would consciously avoid painting a moment of music where sound was produced, instead depicting moments that are in every sense musical, but in which there is silence. This is to avoid the paradox of the ear expecting the sound that the eye sees, and also because this would amount to a challenge by painting against music as to which of the arts was greater. So never worry about playing positions. Reflexively, period musicians who try too hard to emulate what why see in paintings, just make me laugh.
  8. Ben Hebbert

    Early Amati with three peg holes?

    I think that Cozio mentions a 3 string violin by Andrea Amati. I know of an early and unidentifiable Italian violin (Mariani school, if you ask the owner - that can of worms) which is unambiguously for three strings, and 16th century in all likelihood. The English citole in the British Museum, which was converted into a violin in 1578 is a conundrum. The original (citole) pegs were upright and had been plugged, and in the conversion, a violin pegbox was clearly excavated for 3 strings, with a silver-gilt lid to it. When you look inside you see that the space for a fourth string has been dug out very roughly behind the hinge for the lid. So obviously at some time very close to 1578 it was both a 3 string and later a 4 string violin - actually it gets difficult because the tailpiece and fingerboard are coherent to that date, so its almost as if the member of the workshop making the changes thought to make it 3 string and worked away at that whilst his colleague was drilling out a 4 string tailpiece... doh!
  9. Ben Hebbert

    Run over violins - whos fault?

    Isn't getting off a train and leaving your violin in the overhead luggage racks an act of stupidity...
  10. Ben Hebbert

    Run over violins - whos fault?

    Aaah, Jacob, I think you slightly misread what I was saying... "I do feel that the rational response, which appears to be lacking, would have been to discuss the issue with the insurers first, and take their counsel on liability. There is a good chance that they would accept it as a freak accident and as an entirely insurable claim." Insurance specifically covers a variety of circumstances in which damage can happen, and essentially - as far as I see it - the question is whether this was an insured risk or not. Knowing people in the corporate insurance industry (talking in this case about historic workplace health issues so stepping aside from our insurers) there is the strong ethic that if the insurance has been paid for, and the claim is legitimate then it should be paid out. So, it depends on the terms of contract, and stupidity - for want of another word - is something that insurers seem willing to accept as part of their risk. What is the difference between this at its worst case, or someone being silly enough to leave a violin on a train, or a Strad cello on the Verandah?
  11. Ben Hebbert

    Run over violins - whos fault?

    This is absurd. However... if another member of the public had run it over, I think that any liability would fall to the owner for endangering it in the first place. But this comes essentially under the public liability of the garage company simply because the random member of the public happened to be their employee on their time. I do feel that the rational response, which appears to be lacking, would have been to discuss the issue with the insurers first, and take their counsel on liability. There is a good chance that they would accept it as a freak accident and as an entirely insurable claim.
  12. Ben Hebbert

    The Curious Case of Andrea Castagneri

    Hah, as if by magic - look what the cat dragged in today... Slightly longer corners than some, but stylistically very close and the short side of normal, and similarly un-formed. No internal markings, but as you can see it’s been heavily got at... overall it’s a goodun. Not keen on the lack of pins, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a deal breaker - I prefer to see solid 3mm thick ones (below the button the wood is replaced)
  13. Ben Hebbert

    The Curious Case of Andrea Castagneri

    Fiddle Collector - that is absolutely the corners I am thinking about, the edge work and the chasmic c-bouts (an illusion of the corners) so it would stand a very high chance for me of being the real thing, though I think the absolute experts still quibble as there are some more Italian and less Italian violins with this kind of thing. A few years ago I had something pass through that was mostly right (it probably was right) but it was bulbous like a 1720s filius Guarneri in not a very pretty way and it was particularly poor sounding. I wondered if Parisian expertise slightly prejudiced quality in the review of what "IS" a Castagneri and what can only be "school" ... we do much the same in Britain with Thomas Kennedy / Kennedy School cellos and the likes.
  14. Ben Hebbert

    The Curious Case of Andrea Castagneri

    Very interesting instrument. Castagneri seems to be a particularly difficult maker to deal with. Genuine instruments are varied in design, although I would look towards fairly unformed corners and deep edge work as some of the indicating factors that may differentiate the real thing from one of the various makers working closely around him, and ultimately if it is very Italianate it will stand a better chance of being real than not, although I have seen some clearly genuine Castagneri violins that weren't up to much. Castagneri's that I have seen and really liked seem to be quite informal, feeling somewhat asymmetric, and typically but not exclusively with a sense of cavernous c-bouts. He can also be painfully difficult at marking his instruments, and I have known of examples branded on the inside of the back beneath the blocks, which is quite inexplicable, and it's really not worth pulling the back off to prove a point (or to lose an argument). None of these are hard and fast rules. Just as it seems also to be the case that Castagneri sticks to 357mm or under, whereas many native French makers were happy to make violins well over 360mm at the time. You have various options - one is to recognise that the death of a maker may not necessarily be the end of the business run under their name. This is as true for the brothers Amati as it is for many other established makers, where a widow or a son could carry on running their business after their death, so on that basis, death dates may not always be a proof of inauthenticity. Having said that, there was certainly a workshop in France forging instruments in the eighteenth century, which focussed on emulating the works of more celebrated Parisian makers. I recently had a Chappuy by this apparently later hand, which was almost identical to a violin purporting to be Florentine from 1717 complete with brands inside and the works. If people were forging violins outright, then a little bit of label swapping was certainly a possibility. Unfortunately with Castagneri, by at least as early as 1767 he had earned his reputation as one of the three most famous French makers ever to live, alongside Bocquay, and Pierray. At least according to Phillippe Macquer in his Dictionnaire Portatif des Artes et Metiers, and he is constantly quoted in French sources with the same praise into the early nineteenth century right through to the major treatises of the Paris conservatoire. As a result, there was plenty of reason to forge these labels through the eighteenth century, and I'm afraid the French were definitely at it as the typeface is the same basic "Old French" typeface introduced by Simon de Colines in the sixteenth century, it was widespread and available still. So to me, this is very much of the Castagneri school, it is too formal in its outline and the corners too squared for me to have confidence in it, and a large back length makes me less excited. I may be wrong, but I would firmly place it amongst his followers, aided in part by a firm memory of seeing an identical instrument two or three years ago with a beautiful label for Jean Philippe Michelot (also in the lovely Colines font), though I only noted that one because it was so excessively rare. But I offer no certain opinion whatsoever, Castagneri and his followers are too wily to make it easy.
  15. Ben Hebbert

    Wormholes - new to me

    I just think its ironic we are talking about wormholes on the day Stephen Hawking died.