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Dutch Violin


Japes
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I've just received what is clearly an old, Dutch violin. Rather squarish in the shoulders - flat looking scroll - double rows of purfling - absent corner blocks - glassy varnish. The violin has a slightly shortish neck and a small bass bar. I'm tipping early 19th century. Unfortunately no label. It has two locating pins on the front - one at the top, one at the bottom.

Does it look familiar to anyone, or is it just a typical older Dutch violin? Jacob - a fair number of Dutch fiddles must pass through your shop, non? It came with a lovely silver-mounted bow, wrapped in silver and copper, but damaged unfortunately. Looks like figured pernambuco, but it may be snakewood.

dutchtop.jpg

dutchback.jpg

dutchside.jpg

dutchscroll.jpg

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I'm no expert, but the square shoulders, the one-piece back, the color and texture of the varnish, the lack of corner blocks, the small bass bar (which I suspect you will find is integral with the top rather than glued to it), and especially the method of neck attachment all say Klingenthal to me. I've seen them with double purfling. If I'm wrong, I'd appreciate someone telling me what I'm missing.

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I've never seen a Dutch violin in the flesh, so to speak. By the time people started bringing violins to this country, there were French and German factory instruments available. The higher-end violins I see are French makers' instruments (I'm working on a Vuillaume right now that still has a bridge cut by Sacconi on it), the odd old Italian, some old Bohemians and Germans, and lots of modern makers' instruments.

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I'm with Brad. That back looks like a piece of close-grained German maple, and the purfling treatment and scroll are not out of keeping with it. I don't know, but I understand the Dutch obeyed the Italian models more rigidly than this make seems to have.

It looks like decent work, though.

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Slightly OT, but can someone comment on the f-holes? I have a un-identified violin with f-holes that almost look exactly like this. The "point" ^ of the wings don't point straight up or down, but suggest "sideways."

Is this a German (Klingenthal) characteristic?

Thanks!

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I've only actually handled a few Dutch violins, but all had little peculiarities which slot them into a Dutch category. They've all had basically the same varnish and somewhat of an eccentric outline. You're all right about this having German if not Klingenthal characteristics, but Dutch fiddles share many of the same features. The finest of the Dutch instruments certainly were more Italian in appearance than Dutch. The greatest differences between this violin and a German instrument for me are the arching, the ƒs and the varnish. The varnish, perhaps not accurately represented in these quick snaps, is basically clear and glassy over a golden ground. I haven't experienced this varnish on German violins of this vintage. The ƒs are leaning a little top-heavy, unlike the up-right designs Id' expect from Klingenthal, and the arching is relatively flat where it would be quite bloated on a German instrument. I'd say the workmanship is innocently naive, as opposed to rushed like a factory job. The ribs are morticed into the neck and the root is actually the top block. It's my understanding this is seldom seen in violins other than those of Dutch construction. Then of course the double purfling - not an attempt at Maggini, and certainly not as sloppy as I'd expect from a German trade fiddle. To cap it off for me, it came from a Dutch family who believed it to be Dutch themselves, not that that should have any real bearing on its true origin.

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With all due respect, Marsden, it would only be helpful to Japes to share knowledge of violins that are known to be authentic that have resemblence to his violin that is pictured.

If I copy Japes's violin pictures and post them on Ebay tomorrow calling it a J.B. Vuillaume for sale, will you then come on Maestronet and say "Ah Hah, Japes, You have a Vuillaume! I know because there is a Vuillaume on Ebay that looks exactly like yours..."

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Does anyone know if the Balfour and Co. publication on the nationality of old violins is in the public domain? I believe that it is, but I wouldn't want to post a scan then learn that it wasn't the hard way. If any of you have this little booklet, it would seem their description of old Dutch fiddles is in direct reference to this particular piece.

Anyway - this wasn't meant to be a question of nationality so much as a question of maker. I've seen a couple Roumen instruments that have similar qualities, though they were far better preserved than this instrument. I'm in no way suggesting this IS a Roumen instrument however.

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No, I haven't had the fortune of being enlightened about Balfour, but I have noted much in the way of conflicting information. I certainly wouldn't use their text as gospel, but I did think it was worth noting the exact description of this instrument. They couldn't have been entirely wrong.

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Japes, you wrote: "The ribs are morticed into the neck and the root is actually the top block. It's my understanding this is seldom seen in violins other than those of Dutch construction."

Where did you get this information? I have trouble with the "seldom seen" part.

Marsden; I'm not sure which Dutch instruments you're referring to on Ebay... I've only seen one or two listed as such (I don't spend much time there) and I was uncomfortable with them. I don't have any other Dutch fiddle scans at home with me, but here's a site I found interesting: Dutch Violins

Check this out, see if you feel the same about the fiddle, and I'll comment later:

smJCuypers.jpg

For a larger version of the fiddle:Cuypers

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Balfour was a very short-lived firm. The were jewelers who got into the violin business by offering a Strad in STRAD magazine around 1902, I think, for something like 1000 pounds, a stiff price for the day.

They had a whole bunch of certs for it from second rate dealers, but none from anyone reputable. When the violin was challenged, they responded by doubling the price. Finally, against a lot of negative publicity, they sold it to a naive creature like those found on ebay.

When he found out he'd been had, he sued. The court case dragged on until finally one day an old man stood up in court and said "I made that violin and I sold it to them". He was one of the Voller Brothers--very famous fakers of the time.

That's about it for Balfour. They ran ads for a while, and published some stuff like that how to know nationality book, but that was all supporting fluff for their "Strad" scam, and now not particularly well-respected in the businsess, for, after all, they were jewelers and thieves posing as violin dealers, not experts. :-)

Their "Strad" is a pretty nice violin--as are most Voller violins--and was owned by the Hills until they closed up shop. I've seen five or so Vollers, though, and the "Strad" was the best. There are photos of it in Goodkind's Iconography of Stradivari, but it isn't noted as a fake!

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Jeffrey,

About, maybe two years ago, there was a Dutch dealer that was selling on ebay. At one point he had two or three older Dutch violin that he was selling. I research them a little at the time, and I was of the opinion that they definitely looked like what was shown on the Dutch Violin Page. They all had initial prices higher than my bid limit, and while I had interest in them, since our discussions in Ann Arbor, not so much that I was seriously pursuing any. I also believe that one of these on e-bay had tight double purfling similar to the violin that Jakes shows.

Best wishes,

Marsden

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Marsden; Sorry I didn't catch the Dutch dealer's offerings. I would have been interested to see them...

The trouble I'm having is that you mentioned that Japes violin looks like those offered by the dealer on Ebay, and that those offered on Ebay looked alot like those on the Dutch Violins page. What I see in Japes' instrument is a take off (eccentric) on a Stainer model... complete with "chipmunk cheeks" in the outline of the upper bout. To me, most of the 18th and 19th century instruments on the Dutch violin page seem more related to the Cuypers I posted.

Japes: Based on the photos, I find myself leaning toward Germanic. I've responded in more detail below and quoted you a few times so I don't seem to be talking to the air...

"You're all right about this having German if not Klingenthal characteristics, but Dutch fiddles share many of the same features."

You are correct as long as you add the word "some" to "Dutch fiddles". Towards the 20th century, some Dutch makers studied in Germany (and were influenced by the style and techniques). What is the back length, by the way?

"The greatest differences between this violin and a German instrument for me are the arching, the ƒs and the varnish."

I'm personally not entirely with you on this... as you'll see below.

"The varnish, perhaps not accurately represented in these quick snaps, is basically clear and glassy over a golden ground. I haven't experienced this varnish on German violins of this vintage."

I have.... and I like to see the chipping of the Varnish on Dutch instruments resemble more of what you see on the Cuypers.

"The ƒs are leaning a little top-heavy, unlike the up-right designs Id' expect from Klingenthal, and the arching is relatively flat where it would be quite bloated on a German instrument."

The fs look Stainer inspired. The arching (from what I can see) is would work for a 19th century German... and I like the edge profile better for German than Dutch.

"I'd say the workmanship is innocently naive, as opposed to rushed like a factory job."

Home workers.... The tradition still continues in Germany.

"The ribs are morticed into the neck and the root is actually the top block. It's my understanding this is seldom seen in violins other than those of Dutch construction."

As I mentioned, I have trouble with "seldom seen". I've seen a German/Saxon and Czech violins constructed in this manner... and without corner blocks.

"Then of course the double purfling - not an attempt at Maggini, and certainly not as sloppy as I'd expect from a German trade fiddle."

Not all of them are sloppy... and some German makers used double rows... and a couple others used 5 ply. I'd like to see what materials were used in that purfling, by the way.

My "Dutch" experience is almost entirely with better fiddles of the school (in other words, I am not comfortable with the lesser ones), and I can’t go as far as to say it’s not Dutch based on the photos alone (there is a kind of Flemish patina look to the fiddle, but that's as far as it goes for me), but I will say somehow I feel more at home speaking German to it.

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Sorry that I lack the expertise for this, but can anyone here combine the two images of the heads so that they can be looked at side by side? I find them too close to tell differences when scrolling back and forth. If this is possible, it might give a more interesting comparison for discussion.

Thanks,

Marsden

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Thank you Michael. If I had tried to do that I "might" have been able to carry it off.

I must admit, I still do not see that much difference.

Here is what I see.

The photo of Japes' is at a slight angle that distorts the thickness of the pegbox, and the "hook?" between the neck and the carved back of the pegbox. Even with this distortion, the pegbox still looks thicker, and the "hook" a little less sharp.

The scroll itself looks too close to call. I think the one on Japes' looks like a more perfect spiral, but if the same maker made three in a row, I am not sure you would not see the difference we are seeing here. Especially if he was not big on scrolls to begin with.

The rise of the scroll from the pegbox (the throat?), starts further forward on Japes'. But not that much, is this minor variant significant?

I would truly feel that these could be from the same maker - not that I am saying they are, just that I can not say that they are not. Again, if a maker was not that concerned about the scroll, compared to the body of the instrument and hense the sound, are these not possible to have come from the same hand based on what is seen here?

This is how I see this. Enlighten me who will.

Thanks,

Marsden

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David,

I agree, I did a quick check of the ratio of throat width to pegbox length and got a variance of about 20%. This would be significant, except we do not know what the standard deviation of any given maker is. I was checking the ratio when you posted to be sure my eyes were not playing tricks on me. At the same time, without a given idea as to the expected standard deviation, this information would not rule out, or lessen the chance of the same maker. (Again not even thinking for a second that these are, just how do these scrolls show that they are not?)

Marsden

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