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Carved heads


longrifles

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I'm rather intrigued by violins with carved heads....such as the

lion head violins.  Was this done much at all?

Was it done during a specific period such as baroque.......or is it

a modern affectation?  Were any other models

for heads used other than a lion's head? To broaden the

question:  how often was some form other than

the scroll used on fiddle heads?  What were they?  What

period were they done in?  And is there some place we can

research this aspect?

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Jakob Stainer (~1617-1683) was known for his lion heads (though it was picked up by factory copyists in the late 1800s to a greater extent than he himself made them). It was also not at all uncommon on viols to have carved human heads (Meares, 1660; Pierray, 1709). Carved heads are also on often found on baryton, viola d'amore, etc., and on instruments such as the Hardanger fiddle.

The broader question -- Strad made at least one small fiddle with a shield shape instead of a scroll. Some early instruments (esp. viols) had a completely hollowed-out scroll. At the VSA, Joe Curtin's violin had a shield-like 'scroll', and Jim Ham's cello had a hollowed-out scroll. I guess there's nothing new under the sun .

--Claire

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My av is a lion head from a Stainer fiddle, taken from the Strad calendar showing Stainer's work. I actually had a chance to buy a 200-yo fiddle with a head that looked the very image of the one in my av, but the fiddle itself had been so battered and patched that in the end I shrank from doing it (and have regretted my timidity a bit ever since).

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"And some of these carved heads were not made by the luthiers, but by professional carvers."

Almost. According to Al Stancel, there was a machine that produced most of the lion head scrolls that you see. I can't imagine how it works. But the total uniformity of the heads showing up from the late 1800s to early 1900s convinces me he was right. There may have been multiple machines or perhaps just one factory, sending scrolls out across Germany and France. That's why most of the lion head scrolls are on cheap (aka "fancy") violins.

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Fiddlecollector, there are several pictures of lion heads in the Senn & Roy book on Jakob Stainer.

Karl Roy (my teacher) once showed me how the lion mane flowed on a Stainer vs on most copies, but I think that detail is more useful to determine that a violin is a copy than it is to verify that a violin is an authentic Stainer.

-Claire

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The violin maker I'm researching, Knute Reindahl, carved many animal & human heads in addition to traditional scrolls. Most of these heads were on his earlier works- probably before he learned that traditional scrolls sold better Details of a couple of them can be seen on the bio page of my website (link below). I have just recently located another with a lion's head, which I will see & photograph this Friday. I will post a pic. I believe the lion head is almost always depicted on the Norwegian Hardanger fiddles- usually with the lion wearing a crown.

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Here's the machine made lion's head that I was talking about:

http://cgi.ebay.com/OLD-VIOLIN...AD_W0QQitemZ7373620934

It's what was on my first violin, and I've seen him a hundred times since then. Usually the tongue is broken off, so this is a good one. Stainer was likelly the original inspiration. Reindahl certainly had the skill to carve his own, but I know that he also regraduated a great number of German-made fiddles. I hope this helps you to know what you have.

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Hi Richf- I have yet to see this Reindahl violin in person (I have a couple of blurry photos), but all the evidence I have so far leads me to believe it is his first violin. The lion head is quite a bit different than the Stainers or the machine-carved you posted. It resembles the 'Hardanger fiddle type' in my mind, and could be a carry-over from his youth in Norway where his mother's people were makers. The tongue is still intact too.

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bean_fidhleir- Yes, it isn't quite so 'Hardanger' looking as I had remembered. As a matter of fact, I'd say he may have modeled it after the Stainer, except for the 'beard'. Below is a side-view. It is the very blurry one I mentioned, but at least gives another view.

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Longrifles- I can't recall ever seeing a bird or bird's head depicted on a violin head, but that's not to say it's never been done. Human heads, on the other hand, are not too uncommon- they are usually meant to be images of famous personalities in the music world, such as Joachim, Wagner, Beethoven, etc. Another subject genre occasionally depicted is mythological beings, such as Bacchus, Satyrs, etc. (Some of these probably have something to do with the violin being 'the Devil's instrument'. I agree that carved heads are very intriguing. They could even be quite interesting collectibles on their own merits.

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  • 3 weeks later...

quote:


Originally posted by:
Richf
[/iAccording to Al Stancel, there was a machine that produced most of the lion head scrolls that you see. I can't imagine how it works. But the total uniformity of the heads showing up from the late 1800s to early 1900s convinces me he was right. There may have been multiple machines or perhaps just one factory, sending scrolls out across Germany and France. That's why most of the lion head scrolls are on cheap (aka "fancy") violins.

If Al was right, then I think we can now say who bought the machine (or one of them): Gliga!

http://images.andale.com/img/i...yrolean.jpg&marketId=1

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  • 13 years later...

I have a King family heirloom violin with a carved head of Beethoven instead of a scroll. (Friedrich Hoyer, in Klingenthal, 1797) My 3rd great grandfather was a very talented "music master", violinist and singer in England with multiple musical descendants. He was passionate about music. One of his sons played violin for the King of England and was friends with Paganini. His brother was a gifted violinist from the age of 6, self taught. He had 13 violins, some said to be very valuable. I received this violin from my grandfather, also a violinist, and played it as a child. Beautiful tone! The violin needs re-glueing before being playable. I have no descendants interested in playing violin. Suggestions?

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I find it hard to believe that a violin made in 1797 would have a head of Beethoven instead of a scroll.  At that time, Beethoven had just started making his name in Vienna (mainly as a pianist), and wouldn't publish his first symphony or string quartets for a few years yet. 

Either it isn't Beethoven or it was made after 1820.

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