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Tarisio auction


zinomaniac

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The next Tarisio auction starts in one week! Time for a trip to the bank.

It's great fun to look at the excellent photos of available instruments. There is again a large selection of violins.

I wonder why two of them are "attributed to Leandro Bisiach"; I haven't encountered violins attributed to other modern Italian makers. Are Bisiach fiddles difficult to identify with certainty? Are there many Bisiach copy-cats? On the other hand I am pretty ignorant in the sphere of violin attribution. It's all very fascinating!

http://www.tarisio.com/auction/index.php

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I've read about attributions (labeled, ascribed to, by, et al), but what I don't see on several listings is a suggested country of origin. "A violin," "a good violin," etc.

Who decides not to incude this information - Tarisio or the seller? It's hard to believe the folks running Tarisio don't have a good idea; so does the absence of that information mean "almost certainly German?"

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This isn't aimed at anyone in particular... just a general statement.

As it goes, Tarisio has pretty reliable expertise... but... It is an auction, folks.

Traditionally, at an auction, attributions, labels, condition and quality of example are not spelled out with the detail one should expect when working one on one with a dealer/appraiser/expert. The auction venue has changed over the last 25 years or so; It's moved closer to the consumer market... but at this point, should a buyer want the services of a full service shop, they should purchase from a full service shop.

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I don't expect shop level handling at an auction. All I was asking was how (and who) decides what information to include in a listing.

So, just as I've learned that a violin with no label can be worth more than the same violin with its original label, I have to assume that a violin with no country of origin is probably hoping to fetch more than the same violin with its source listed. I'm curious who makes these decisions.

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I suppose if auction companies and consigners are satified to only sell to those who either can examine the instruments in person (local people, dealers, and the wealthy) or don't need to (experts) then it makes sense to be sparing with information. Why wouldn't it be in their interests to provide as much information as possible?

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Quote:


I don't expect shop level handling at an auction. All I was asking was how (and who) decides what information to include in a listing.

So, just as I've learned that a violin with no label can be worth more than the same violin with its original label, I have to assume that a violin with no country of origin is probably hoping to fetch more than the same violin with its source listed. I'm curious who makes these decisions.


I think I mentioned that my statement was a general one, not meant as direct response to you.

I'm afraid I don't follow the second part of your post (same violin w/o label, etc.) I assume the two instruments, while possibly made by the same person, were not "the same"?

Concerning who makes the decisions: Ultimately, the parties responsible for the expertise at the auction house either attribute (sometimes specifically, sometimes not so...), agree with an attribution, or disagree with an attribution. It is my experience that these same persons may consult with experts outside the "house", from time to time.

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I just wanted to add that I went to the Tarisio showing a few months ago and there were probably hundreds of violins laid out on many tables. I'm not sure how in-depth of information one could expect them to put out on every single violin there. Maybe just on the more "important" specimens. I guess the whole idea of the showing is so you can, if you're seriously interested, go and check out as many violins as you want. You can touch them, handle them, play them, ask others who actually have skill play them for you ( ), and you can see for yourself and decide what you think about the instrument.

I'm not sure I'd expect a newby to be able to attend the auction and be able to make choices as "intelligently" as the experts who go. But I'm guessing a newby could go try out a bunch of violins and decide which ones he/she liked and put in some bids. If they like the sound and are willing to pay the price bid, then I guess by definition the violin was worth it.

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I suppose if auction companies and consigners are satified to only sell to those who either can examine the instruments in person (local people, dealers, and the wealthy) or don't need to (experts) then it makes sense to be sparing with information. Why wouldn't it be in their interests to provide as much information as possible?


There may be a few things (or more) going on:

1) It seems that auction houses have caught on to the consumer instrument market over the last few decades... at least they seem to cater to it more than they did in the past. Still, an auction deals with 300 to 500 lots at a time... I would think there are limits to what kind of attention they can offer. When I handle a single, significant, fiddle, quite a bit of time goes into the transaction... including adjustment, consultations, often some education of the client, etc. Not to mention my own research prior to sale. Can't imagine doing that for 300 instruments at the same time.

2) The level of expertise at the various auction houses is varied.

3) Have to admit, the possibility of "discovering" something at an auction is attractive... even though, these days, one usually has company (competition). I'm sure the auctions are aware of this. They may even choose to be vague in their attribution, in some cases.

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Quote:


I'm not sure I'd expect a newby to be able to attend the auction and be able to make choices as "intelligently" as the experts who go. But I'm guessing a newby could go try out a bunch of violins and decide which ones he/she liked and put in some bids. If they like the sound and are willing to pay the price bid, then I guess by definition the violin was worth it.


I agree.

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I think hes trying to say `what is this recent trend with catalogers putting `A violin`, instead of `A french violin`,

or `a German Violin`.

Does it mean they honestly haven`t a clue where it was made or is it a ploy to create more interest than `` A German Violin`` might bring.


Oh.... I get it. Probably a lttle bit of both, don't you think?... or one or the other at different times.

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Another query are auction houses forced to stand by the same guarantee by stating `an Italian violin` ,if it turned out to be German---- as if they stated by for example a fine violin by Presenda and it turned out to be not by him.

By this i`m meaning does country of origin stated carry the same auction house guarantee as `a made by so and so...`

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Sorry if my posting was too obtuse, but yes, that's the question.

Here's a sample Tarisio listing: A GOOD VIOLIN, EARLY 20th CENTURY

If someone can determine when, approximately, it was made, and the auction house is willing to put that in the description, I'm pretty sure they have an equally defensible opinion on where it was made. So, am I reasonable in my hypothesis: that information which may actually lower a price is omitted for a reason; i.e., "mystery" might sucker someone - a lowly "consumer" perhaps - into paying more that it's really worth?

(The experienced auction folks out there are probably smacking their forheads and saying, "Of course, how dumb can you be?" but I'm trying to decode how this process works. And this was my [apparently equally oblique] point about the label - I'm not talking about something by a known maker, but more like a well made "trade violin." With the label, it's a known item with a well-defined price range, but without, who knows, it might show up at auction as "An Interesting Violin.")

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I fully agree with you that the guarantee they have to give is the reason why they are very cautious in saying what a violin could be.

The opening to the consumer market also means to include relatively "cheap instruments" below 5000 USD which about 15 years ago Sotheby´s or Christies would have not accepted for auction. To give a guarantee on a violin less than 5000 USD, and to take the violin back in case of dispute is a driving force for being carefull. If for example the buyer gets from an expert whoever (just consider how many people are writing certificates today in comparison to 20 years ago) the information the violin is french instead of italian, the trend is to be friendly to the customer even if the information he got is wrong. It is probably not worth for the auction house to step in a big debate about a 5000 USD fiddle whether it is french, german or italian. For some experts, this is not relevant for a violin in this price range, the value of the fiddle is 5000 USD and it does not matter very much who has made it.

The trend has changed in that not only high price violins are now considered worth collecting, but also instruments below 10000 USD and bows below 3000 USD, this is on the one side good business for auction houses and dealers, but also a source of misunderstandings, debate and too high expectations from new collectors.

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I agree what keith is saying, if the auction house has the information,they should provide it in the listing.They claim to be trying to attract retail buyers who generally aren`t experts but could overpay and will be pretty disappointed when they take it somewhere for an appraisal and its no more interesting than something they could have bought off ebay for 1/2 the price.I fear its a ploy that could backfire on them.

I also disagree that its too time consuming,even the top instruments might only get a few lines in the description.

A potential buyer will probably pay as much as they can afford at the time ,be it for a Stradivari or an American violin for 1000$ but the risk to their finances in their particular situation would be the same.

As for the attributed description i think this should be done away with completely unless they are prepared to state `attributed by who`, which they rarely do.

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My long time experience was with automobile auctions where only licensed dealers can attend. It was a free for all, with the assumption implicit that all attendees were professionals and able to handle themselves. Once an auction crosses the line to invite the retail public, the benefit for dealers to attend is diminished and the responsibility of the house increases. It is dangerous both for the auction house and the retail buyer. The retail buyer might not educate themselves enough to understand the nomenclature, and there is no way for the house to represent everything with enough detail to properly inform the inexperienced buyer.

The atmosphere of a wholesale car auction is much different than a Skinner auction. The auto auctioneer tries to catch a bidder and trickery is commonplace. The auctioneer at a Skinner sale will not allow a bidder to outbid himself, nor will they accept imaginary bids from the wall. It is all very genteel.

I think the retail violin or antique buyer is rather catered to by the major auction houses, whereas a newbie at a wholesale auto auction will absolutely get burned-and not even know it. But everyone else there with experience will know just what happened.

The marketplace is fascinating.

jesse

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3) Have to admit, the possibility of "discovering" something at an auction is attractive... even though, these days, one usually has company (competition). I'm sure the auctions are aware of this. They may even choose to be vague in their attribution, in some cases.


Jeffrey,

This may very well be true for the upcoming Tarisio auction, and for this reason. Of a truth, I have personally seen and handled lot 431, described as "A French violin ca. 1820, labeled J. B. Gagliano Alomnus Stradivarius Fecit Cremone Anno 1728. I know the owner of the violin personally. Allowing me to bring the violin to my home and privately examine every detail, I encouraged him to follow every avenue through expert channels to ascertain the true identity. It has been examined by Sothebys, their date was "French circa 1850", evidently Jason Price agrees, but dates it to circa 1820.

Their is just one small detail I think they may have overlooked. I believe the head block is original to the instrument, as well as the rest of the blocks and linings.

The one little detail is the fact that there is at least one nail hole in the head block, and one can clearly see the back of the neck through that hole. It is my understanding that the Hill firm believes the French "invented" the modern day practice of mortising the neck into the head block in the early 1800's.

That said, if one compares the interior construction of lot #431, with French instruments certified as 'by' this maker or that maker of the same period, I believe that anyone who is a keen judge of violins will clearly recognize that lot # 431 is not a French violin, ca. 1820.

I believe that lot # 431 is 'by' the maker whose label it bears, and is one of the rarest instruments on the planet.

Why?? Historical evidence states that this makers work is very, very rare, and few specimens are 'extant'. Furthermore, some of the very early authorities don't believe he ever existed.

Well, pilgrim, if J. B. Gagliano never existed, how in the world did he put a non-existent label in a non-existent violin??

"Gagliano Giovanni Baptista, Cremona. 1728. Brother of Alessandro G. Few specimens extant."

Label wording: B. Gagliano alomnus Stradivarius Fecit Cremone anno 1728

Source: Karel Jalovec, "Italian Violin Makers", revised edition: 1964 (page 139)

Somebody had best pay really close attention to this fiddle. Charles Reade said it best.. "use your own eyes"...

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Haven't seen the fiddle in person, yet... and I avoid comment on instruments that are currently for sale.

In general, however, I think it's a stretch to conclude a violin is "by" a maker based on the kind of information you presented. I'd have far less difficulty with : "Based on the details I observed, I question that the instrument's origin is as catalogued". It should be said, however, that you did say " I believe". Jalovec, by the way, is a book I have not opened in about 15 years, with (I believe) good reason.

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Jeffrey,

I had the violin in my posession for three months. Due to the extensive restoration, including half-edge work to the upper bouts of the top plate, I did not open the instrument, nor did I have the proper photography equipment to document the interior with the top plate on, but, it would be well worth your time to examine it.

I first sent photographs to Phillip Margolis at Cozio, he recommended that I contact Tim Ingles. He, and Paul independently examined the violin, when the owner shipped it to Carly Crum in New York. Sothebys turned it down, and recommended it to Jason Price at Tarisio. So, it is there now, awaiting your eyes, if you plan on attending. If you do attend the auction, and examine the instrument, I would like to hear from you.

I realize that Jalovec has shown photographs of fake violins in the past, but an interesting note written on the overleaf by the previous owner of my copy, says this:

"Coincidentally, saw Whistler today (the Bow-Book man) after buying this book. He insisted that Jalovec was a jackass and a crook, but that these plates were authentic and worth keeping." K.B. Then below, is this inscription: (Told me that other books Jalovec authored contained pictures of fakes, and that I shouldn't buy, etc.) Signed and dated: Ken (Bird)? San Marino, Calif. 8/65 at the top of these inscriptions.

Does anyone know of this person??

John

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Dear Keith Rogers,

The violin that you are refering to "20th century labeled Gotti"...I am sorry that is the most that we can say. If we know where an instrument is made or who made it, we will write that. I have to say, that is not my experience with other houses. We don't play the game of misleading by leaving a description purposefully vague. If we know that "Scarampella" is Chinese, for instance, we'll say so!

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Thanks for the clear answer Christopher.

As pointed out, there's a kind of shift going on where the auction houses are moving to a more retail market, and a lot of folks are coming in with just some eBay experience. With eBay, I know there are sharks in the water, but because of the rating system, and boards like this, I have an idea of how to view that kind of marketplace. I'm still trying to understand the role the auction house plays in this kind of auction - at least now I know how Tarisio operates.

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I think Jeffrey may be telling us in a gentle way that opinions, even by the best, are just that. I've seen one or two things in the Tarisio auctions that to my eye must have been attributed by reference to information that standard violin books do not impart. We all have favorite makers, and when something appears to contradict a characteristic that we expect in said makers, we experience doubt. I know I do. However, if I were to resell a Tarisio-purchased instrument, I would at least have the comfort of citing Dmitri Gindin (or whomever) in my sale promotion.

That's called 'protecting your investment.'

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