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Identification Game


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I'll take a guess. First of all, I think they're all from the 19th century, largely based on the last one, which I think is French.

1. Italian. I look at the upper bout and see more of what I call a "helmet" shape, rather than the almost circular upper bout on the last fiddle. Also, the purfling is set further away from the edges, which I think is, generally speaking, typical of many of the Italian violins I've seen.

2. German. I think this is a German attempt at an Italian fiddle. The upper bout looks similar to the first, but the lower bouts don't seem to match the uppers. Also, the purfling looks a tad closer to the edge, and because of the heavy black outline, it appears as if there's more black than white (which I thought I remember somebody mentioning was a feature of German violins).

3. French. Both upper and lower bouts are very circular in shape, and and corners are very pronounced. The middle bout looks very slender, and the small button look very much like many 19th century French fiddles I've looked at.

I'm probably way off, but what the heck, you won't learn if you don't try.

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Just goading the big boys into coming out to play, maybe?

I would like to leave my sources masked for a little longer, because I think I located one possible souce of the photos.

At first I worked like this. 1. reminded me of a Klotz labelled fiddle I helped someone buy. 3. Looked like Bergonzi bouts to me, so that left me with finding a 3rd country for 2. from the same period. French? I thought of Castagneri school, again one I helped someone procure; but then I fluked on another photo that looked suspiciously similar to 2. That meant finding an alternative country for 3. England and Betts came to mind, copy of an Italian?

Do I get spanked for displaying my ignorance in public?

Best wishes.


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Okay, here are some thoughts.

Iversola: In each of your arguments for an attribution you are correct in the description of a detail -- the helmet shape, the darker purfling, distance from edge, small button... But as I think more experienced eyes than mine will confirm, details are the last thing to examine, and then only to support an attribution, rarely to overturn or correct one.

Omobono is correct. All three of these are from the 18th century.

Here are the questions I would ask.

1) What general model does the outline suggest. For instance, you can clearly see a a rather high arch on the back on #1.

2) What can be seen by comparing ONLY the shape of the C bouts. That is, how do they differ in squareness/tightness/direction of corners -- and what does this say about model?

Mauricio. Good selection. You've got one out of three on the nose. Another is the correct country. Care to say more about your reasoning?

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Originally posted by: hanxiao

does 2 equal to 3?


Meaning what?


I think he means that he only sees 2 violins. Me too.


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-my reason for number #3 was just the bulbous outline I've seen in an example of Daniel Parker, though the ff's are different. The choice of wood for the back seems almost too fancy, more like what Panormo would use?

In #1 I see an Amati influenced outline and mostly straight standing ff's, that's why I guessed Contreras, and despite the alignment pins on the back, to me, the arching doesn't scream Italy and seems to be in the style of "chicken breast".

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Ed: If you left click on the printer icon at the top of the thread (right side) to open the window that allows printing of the entire thread, you can view all three fiddles at the same time and read the entire post in that window as well. In fact, I find it easier to read a thread in that window because it lacks all the distracting gobbledeegook. Alex

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The print thread view of any topic is similar Topic view set to Linear Mode with Discussion Interface set to standard rather than Enhanced....

Figured it out... which is odd behavior in the software. If your browser (I'm using IE6) is set to less than the width of of the image + left column stuff, then although the TEXT messages wrap to the narrower space, the photographs do NOT. And the expected horizontal scroll bar does not appear (as it did in the old software).

So, for instance, on my screen which is 1600x1200, when there is a single browser maximized I see

the full image. When I cut this in half by resizing the browser application(to 800x1200) or by changing the screen resolutin to 800x600, I only see two of the three fiddles.

The images that are brought up in separate browser windows have the expected horizontal scroll bar.

I would say this is a bug in the software.

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Falstaff -- this post rocks!

If we use the details to confirm or reject an attribution, then what's the first thing to look for in forming an opinion? For somebody just beginning, it's easy to pick out differences and details, but I think part of the problem is that I don't know which of these details are indicative of a specific maker, or even generally speaking, of a region, country, or school.

And while we're on it (and maybe the more experienced guys can help us out here) exactly what is the step-by-step process you go through when trying to ID a fiddle? And maybe after we're done with this thread, we could start a ID tutorial where we can look at violins from a specific maker or school and point out and discuss the features that distinguish it from everything else.

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As with apprehension of any work of art or artisanry, one looks at the details and the whole AT THE SAME TIME to get an overall idea/feel. The details do not exist independent from all other details, and the complex of relationships among the "details" will eventually constitute a whole, a unity, an aesthetically identifiable whole.

Let's try and use the first violin as an example of what I mean by having to look at the whole rather than the individual parts.

The first impression I get is of high arching. Then of somewhat stumpy corners. Which gives the c-bout square feel -- the look of a D rather than a C (think of extending the lines created by the corners and exending both top and bottom until they bisect. Where do they cross? Close to the fiddle? (A very C c-bout) Far away from the fiddle? (a more D c-bout). These elements taken together give the outline -- thick or thin waisted, your helmet headed impression, thick bottomed).

The overall impression given is of a Stainer influenced model/outline.

And none of the details -- taken separately -- for instance the location of the purfling or the locating pins -- contradict that.

So turn it over. Still high arching. Vertical f-holes. Fairly wide.

Using Jeffrey's model from the previous thread on IDing fiddles. If I'm happy with the Model, now I try and determine age. Is the wear genuine or artificially applied? General condition, wear of bouts and corners. Edgewear. Here's a place where people (myself definitely included) want details to help give an estimate of age. Is there a scroll graft, are the peg-hole's bushed, how much wear and tear on the treble shoulder. The fact is a scroll graft can be present for any number of reasons OTHER than the one hoped for (that the fiddle is older than 1810 and was modified by the addition of a longer/angled neck); that pegholes wear out in shorter order than we might think; that a fiddle can get three hundred years of wear and tear in fifty....

This aspect -- telling age -- I think just takes familiarity with lots of fiddles. I have seen the same violin aged as 1750 and 1910 by different people.

Now comes the step in ID that requires a bit of the historian/antiquary. If you have an model and an age, can you narrow it to a country or city. This just comes of experience.

But in our example, it would be reasonable, if I think this is a Stainer/Amati influenced model, and is dated to 1750 (give or take twenty years) to suggest it is Tyrolean or Bohemian (what we'd now simply say as German) or Mittenwald.

So now you just have a relatively small sample of makers (or families of makers) to choose from. In this case it's Giorgio Kloz, 1733.

I'm sure the more experienced eyes here will have other thoughts (or corrections) to my logic. I mean it only as a template for the type of thinking this activity of identification entails.

And bear in mind, as the person putting together the quiz I already know the answer. I don't have to risk looking silly with my guesses... That's why I do it....

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Another thought.

Mauricio saw something in the outline of number 3 that reminded him of an English maker he'd actually held. Parker. But a detail (the f-holes) didn't seem right. Nor did the quality of the wood. The quality of the wood reminded him of Panormo. Panormo was an Italian who worked in London (in the Betts shop) and then in Dublin.

So his initial impression leads to a suggestion that isn't demonstrable, but seems reasonable. And in fact is pretty close. The fiddle is a Strad model Betts.

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Ok, I follow you. I never quite knew exactly what "squarer" corners meant -- that was a great explanation!

So, just for now, if we can continue talking about the outine of the first fiddle -- the Amatise. I understand that by looking at the fiddle from the side that you coud get an idea about the arching. And I do know that Stainer-influenced violins (and those from the Tyroean region) are characterized by their high arches. But how can you tell that just by looking at a photograph of the back? I'm guessing that what I initially took as varnish wear along the C bouts was actually shading by which you could discern that the back has a disctinctly high arch.

Also, regarding Stainer/Amati outlines -- other than the sqaurer C bouts, what other features are chacteristic of these kinds of violins? To me, and I'm cheating (I'm looking at a Brothers Amati in the Hamma book right now to compare), I think that the middle violin looks more Amatise that the first. The middle one looks more "bottom heavy" -- where the the apex of the the curve occurs closer to the saddle. Also, the upper bouts (especially when I look at the top) look wider at the shoulder, which is also something that seems to strike me when I look at Amatis.

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