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Strad vs. Del Gesu


llama
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I'm only a novice at this, but with this picture, it's clear that the one on the left hand side is a Strad while the one on the right hand side is a del gesu. I judged from the f-holes and the C bouts. The more experienced people here maybe able to tell from other aspects, aside from my beginner-level points of view.

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This is a good comparison of Strad vs. Guarneri. However, there are a lot more differences that cannot be shown with this photo:

1. Strad's work tends to strive for perfect symmetry, while del Gesu often are asymmetric. If you take a divider compass and follow the Strad curves on both Treble side vs. bass side, you will find that they are nearly 100% identical. But you won't find that on a del Gesu. Sometimes you will even see difference on the 2 sides of the del Gesu Scroll.

2. Del Gesu are generally slightly smaller in dimension, by a few millimeters. Therefore, it is easier for player with smaller hands.

3. Strad's arching tends to be flat, where del Gesu has higher arch. Del Gesu compensated the smaller dimension by higher arching to achieve equivalent internal volume of the sound box. In most case, he probably achieve more internal volume space from higher arching then what he gave up on the dimensions. Del Gesu sound tends to be darker due to the extra volume in the sound box. (just like viola sounds darker than violin because it has more internal volume.)

4. Strad's workmanship is much superior than del Gesu. Strad strived to make the instrument a visual art. Strad was not just a violin maker; he was an artist as well as a scientist. From his gradual changes of his designs, one can induce the fact that Strad learn the principle of accoustic science little by little, experiementing with minute differences and search for his "voice" in the instruments. This is why it took him more than 20 years to reach his pinnacle. On the other hand, del Gesu is a violin maker who has the utmost conviction of his "voice". del Gesu was not a poplar maker while he was alive because of his dark "voice". Yet, he continued making his instrument in such way. He was ahead of his time. It paid off when Paganini fall in love with his dark "voice".

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I bet Mr. Perlman would be shocked to find the two fiddles have been joined at the hip!

Inspirati; Can't say I completely agree about the arching height or artistic issue... Many Strads are quite full in the arch.

I think art is a subjective subject. The argument here is an old one.

I saw a presentation (at the Guarneri exhibition in NY) which illutrated how closely related the outlines of the Cremonese makers really were... Very small differences in outline effect rather significant changes in appearance.

Popularity during the life might be an interesting study. I believe the Stradivari and Guarneri families had slightly different client sets.

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It's not my observation, but Bob Bein's, that as the quality of wood used in the Stradivari shop slumps off, the quality used in del Gesu's shop goes up. By the mid-1730s, Stradivari wood is from the lumberyard, and del Gesu is using wood that rivals anything Stradivari used. The natural conclusion would be that the money is flowing differently than previously, and del Gesu is getting the primo customers at that point. In a general sort of way it's an interesting observation.

I'm surprised that Manfio hasn't commented on his favorite topic--that though del Gesu archings are often unnaturally low, the rib heights often appear to have originally to possibly been higher to compensate, where Strad archings are *usually* higher, with lower ribs.

From an artistic point of view, I think del Gesu took greater risks, and was less just a better version of his ancestors. Anyone who's held some of the incredibly beautiful stuff of his from the mid 1730 (but not only those) should be immediately struck by both the innovation, and the intense care about detail in those violins. I think the later works (many of which I believe I could show aren't del Gesu's own) have tended to distort our view of how really good he was, thanks to some clods of a century ago or more who started a thought about his incompetence that subsequent generations have never really closely examined with a critical mind.

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Hi Michael, I'm here! Yes, I think Del Gesú used the deep ribs to counterbalance the thick graduations he used, a combination rarely used by makers. Cozio di Salabue states that Del Gesú emulated Stradivari, and he is right when we see the violins of the period you have mentioned Michael.

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I was primarily interested in a comparison of the bouts, holes and corners, but all this extra info is good <scribbles notes madly in back of class!>

Does anyone have dimensions of these two, I would be interested in an exact comparison... I guessed the del Gesu was a few mm shorter by fudging the stop length (it's hard without a nut!), but I'd be interested to see if/how his other features directly compensate/balance the change in length.

My first observaton, which is hardly rigid since it is based on only these two instruments, is that every part of the Strad appears scientific, deliberate and calculated, whereas the del Gesu seems more of an artistic/emotional endeavour. I'm sure it's not, but the del Gesu almost looks freehand.

Other comparisons I drew were feminine vs masculine, sacred vs secular, form vs colour... all very subjective.

And I don't think Stern would have been upset... he'd have had a Guarndavari

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I think that with few exceptions (the Cannon for instance) most of Del Gesùs were regraduated, I think they had thicker plates and deeper ribs. When the plates were thinned during regraduation (to conform to Stradivari standarts) the ribs had to be shallowed to avoid hollow sonority and wolf notes. Paganini was allways looking for a Del Gesú that was as thick as his beloved Canone.

That's why I like the Cannon, it represent's Del Gesú intentions.

I find Del Gesù lines more dynamic if compared to the somewhat static lines of Stradivari.

The Hills, in their book about the Guarneri family especulate that most probably Del Gesù was a violinist, perhaps a virtuoso player, it's an interesting part of this book.

I would add also that in general makers start working on the Strad model and as they get old they fall in love with the Del Gesú model. Some virtuoso players starts playing Strad and go to Del Gesú when they get older too. I like the particular sound produced by the Cannon model, a deep bass (favoured by the deep ribs) and an E string with an edge (favoured by the thick gradutations, I think), and you can play it with a heavy bowing and the instrument will stand it. If possible, give a look in one of my old posts called "what if Del Gesù lived today?".

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In general, and this is a very inaccurate statement as a specific, Strads follow a wide range of sizes, but mostly from 354mm or so up, even to 360 or more. A "normal" measure for them might be considered 356mm. Del Gesus also run a wide range, but it's generally lower numbers, from about 350mm to 356 or so, but what's normal depends a lot on what period. I think 354mm might be a fair number. Also, the same with stops--Strads, 194 to 198, with a nominal 195; del Gesus more like 193mm. In arching this follows, also, with Strads with 16mm, 17mm, 18mm top arches not uncommon, and del Gesu arches often in the 15mm range, sometimes even less, though you have to measure a lot to make sense of it. There are some very low Strad arches, but they're exceptions. I havn't ever seen a really high del Gesu from a "good" period.

In terms of outline, none of the Cremonese outlines are too different from each other, with most of the differences being in the corners and endblocks--areas that aren't defined by the mold. Del Gesus are a bit different, in that the lower corners are a bit lower than normal, which messes with a lot of other aspects. However, the basic origin is extremely ordered and "scientific" in all the Cremonese--del Gesu included, and his compensations for his differences are also organized in specific ways. He's much more organized than people give him credit for, I think.

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From my vantage point (somewhere below the bottom): I found it really hard to make a Cannone model look like a del Gesu - to see what I mean, look at the pictures of a so-called "Cannone" model on my website. The dimensions, graduations, etc are all there, but apart from the f-holes there is very little aparent similarity to a real del Gesu. The one I am currently finishing is much better because I understood the corners and the curves of the bouts better, but it was a real struggle.

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"I think the later works (many of which I believe I could show aren't del Gesu's own)"

Thats sounds very provocative! When you say not his own, do you mean totally unrelated and attributed to him at a later stage, or made by someone else in (or for) his workshop along the lines Roger Hargreaves speculates on vis-a-vis the scrolls?

And, which ones don't you think are his?

Regards

Rob

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I think Katarina is the obvious candidate, but the "boys" in the cigar-smoke filled rooms don't want to hear it. Violin expertise is still a totally macho world.

If you look very carefully at them, I think it's quite easy to separate them into groups, and I'm surprised no one has done this publically. The "worst" ones have characteristics which del Gesu never had in his making, ever, and were made simultaneously with "good" ones which are full of del Gesu's own style. It's plausible to have called his workmanship uneven, but ridiculous to have believed that when he worked poorly he also simultaneously changed many things about his normal style.

If you want to start somewhere, start with the last one, which has the original label, dated after his death (that should clue you that he might not have done it, unless he worked on a year after he was dead), and is in the "alternate" style. The "Cannone" stands out not, as has been said, because it's so unusual, but because in a period with a lot of non-Josephs it's the most like the ones he normally made, making it one of the more "usual" ones of the period, and an exception in that regard.

Scrolls are the obvious place to start. Remembering that most del Gesu scrolls up to 1741 or so were made by his father, you have to go back to the beginning to find heads like the "Cannone", to confirm del Gesu's own natural style. Then there's the bad type, which are completely different, and in fact stylistically the exact opposite, interspersed with the "Cannone" type. That's the first clue.

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If we take the Cannone and the Leduc as examples though, looking at their respective scrolls, that on the Leduc, to my eye at least, bears more resemblance, even if incredibly exaggerated, to those on his earlier violins where the scrolls are attributed to him, than to that on the Cannone. Assuming the early and late scrolls are correctly attributed to Del Gesu (and if I remember correctly this style was also to be seen on some of his fathers violins), wouldn't it seem unlikely that he would fix a rather awkward scroll presumably made by someone else, onto the Cannone, while puting his own scrolls onto violins not made by himself (bearing in mind that the Leduc is not the only such idiosyncratic Del Gesu)?

Regards

Rob

(By the way, I seem to have posted this while you were editing your previous post, which is why I havn't taken it into account. I shall have to go away and have a good look at the Biddulph book now).

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The characteristics that experts generally agree on for del Gesu scrolls are a broad escape from the eye, with accompaning large subsequent turns, and a squshed look from the front, caused by a high middle turn, and narrow eyes. Other aspects have a similar too-large, fattish look to them. On the early examples, these are just tendencies, with his father's influence there trying to get him to do something more normal. Look particularly at the Kreisler, and to a lesser extent, the Baltic. There are a number of other similar examples which aren't in the Biddulph book.

The late type that I don't think are his have the opposite--prominent eyes, a very tight turn out of the eye, a sharp, needle-ish aspect, and a tendency towards cutting things too much, too small, and especially, too sharply.

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