Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

Unlabelled Old Violin with interesting pattern


Stringsmart

Recommended Posts

I have an old, unlabelled violin, with an interesting but somewhat faded pattern at the back. The pattern featured an eagle with a flag, surrounded by about 33 stars (can only guess as some have faded), while near the eagle's claws were these words "E Pluribus Unum." My little research suggests the pattern might be dated to around 1859, if the 33 stars were to be taken as 33 states in the Union.

The pattern was nicely etched and quite an art piece, though with many parts faded out, with mainly gold and green colors.

Does anyone know anything about insignia or etching at the back of violin as I have described? Any where I might research on such insignia?

By the way, the violin looked really old, and very lihgt-weight. Has great, resonant sound.

Thanks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's difficult to know exactly what you have, but it sounds very much like an image that we have on an old family and that I've seen occasionally on ebay fiddles. If so, look very hard to see if it is actually a decal. If so it was found on cheap factory fiddles--no neck block or corner blocks, and a gouged out bass bar--from just before and after 1900 (sometimes described at the time as "fancy" violins). From the outline of the instrument, ours may have been a Klingenthal make, but there is no way to know. You can see examples in the old violin catalogs that are reproduced in the Ehrhardt violin price guides (volume I), frequently available on ebay. Several years ago, I went down the same path as you, counting the stars to pin down a date in American history. Best of luck.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My mother used to tell about her childhood friend Betty, who lived behind a store across the alley from my grandparents' house. Betty acquired a good-sounding spread eagle instrument, maybe after her brother won it betting on a pitbull. Their orchestra director would say, "When the violins are resting, hold 'em right. I don't want to see the back of any fiddle and I don't want to see the back of any VIOLIN."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Richf, for the very helpful insights.

I can't tell if it was a decal. But the pattern seemed to be etched in the varnish. Because places where the pattern faded, that's where there is also varnish loss.

I could find neck and end blocks, but not corner blocks. Are these helpful clues?

By the way, there is something unique about its raised fingerboard. There is a wedge-like inset underneath fingerboard at the neck, seemingly to raise the fingerboard a little higher. View from the side, it is shaped like an elongated triangle about 4 inches in length and 1/8th of an inch at its highest, facing the violin body. As it approaches the nut, it gets lower until it became a sharp end wedge about 1 inch shy of the nut.

Is this readjustment to fingerboard height a common practice at a particular time period?

Many thanks again!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The wedge-shaped piece under your fingerboard is usually called a "shim." Its purpose is to raise the height of the fingerboard above the top. It's a repair that's seen fairly commonly. It cannot be attributed to any time period.

I've seen a couple of violins with the eagle within a circle of stars pattern on the back that you describe. My recollection, also, is that they looked like decals.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Does it have an integral neck block? That's where the internal block where the neck joins the body is actually part of the neck stock, and the ribs are let into slots in the side of the neck root. Sometimes the shim (wedge)technique is used to elevate the fingerboard because that construction makes a neck reset a very involved repair. Anybody know which region used this type of construction primarily?

If the neck root where it joins the body does not extend into the body a few mm then it's likely a "Spanish Foot" construction. That term comes from the fact that Spanish guitarmakers often do their neck joints this way, as do many contemporary classical guitarmakers. I don't know whether the term is appropriate for violins...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Regarding the "shimmed" fingerboard, another possibility (although remote), is that it is an old baroque-necked instrument, with the additional wedge-shaped piece between the neck & fingerboard, that was then employed. My baroque violin is of this construction.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Stainer was aparently the first non-Italian to use a separate neck block. The "Spanish foot" as you call it was till then generally used north of the Alps, and persisted in Bohemia and some parts of Germany well into the 19th century, especially on cheaper instruments. This method of construction was normally also associated with a construction method without mould, no corner blocks, etc.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.


×
×
  • Create New...