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Smithsonian violin collection back on display


Richf
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FYI, the American History Museum in Washington, DC reopened in November, after a 2-year renovation. The musical instrument collection hasn't been on display for perhaps a decade. But now it's back -- in the same small room on the 2nd floor. A couple Strad fiddles and Strad cellos, a Stainer, an Amati, and a few other old friends. A dimly lit and crowded space, but still worth the visit. Happy Thanksgiving, all.

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The American History Museum is part of the Smithsonian. The only other location in Washington that displays a few old instruments is the Library of Congress, although they are often in use by performers and not on display. The Corcoran Gallery has a collection as well, but they are never on public display.

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"I thought the Stradivari instruments that belonged to the Corcoran had been sold."

Well, now that I have researched this more, I'm sure you're correct. And I'm not sure if the Corcoran has anything anymore.

According to a little book I have, a quartet of Strads and a quartet of N. Amatis were both bequeathed to the Corcoran in 1964. The Corcoran sold the Strads to Japan in the mid 1990s. And they sold the Amatis to Herbert Axelrod (the fish food mogul) in the late 1990s. Axelrod later donated the Amati quartet to the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian also has an Axelrod quartet of decorated Strads. That quartet is on display at the renovated American History Museum. But the Amati quartet is nowhere to be seen. (BTW, did that guy Axelrod ever go to jail? The last I heard he had fled to Europe to avoid the IRS, and the Germans had him cuffs. Maybe he was too old for serious time

Concerning cameras at the Smithsonian, I didn't see any signs. That doesn't mean they weren't there. More importantly, I didn't see any guards in that room.

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I took lots of pictures in the Air&Space Museum and the National Gallery the last time I was there. They are both part of the Smithsonian. There were lots and lots of guards in the National Gallery and I took pictures of the Vermeer, Rubens, and Da Vinci Paintings. There were no signs to the contrary and the guards said nothing. I believe the Da Vinci is the only one in the USA. Rules may have changed since then. You may want to have a polarizing filter to cut down the glare of the glass case. An SLR would help a lot here.

Dwight

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There seems to be a quartet of Stradivari and Amati Instruments.

Dwight

“The Axelrod Quartet: Stradivarius and Amati”

Smithsonian Chamber Music Society audiences may experience an unparalleled offering when they hear two magnificent quartets of instruments—one made by Antonio Stradivari, the other by his teacher Nicoló Amati.

http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/...5&objkey=21

http://americanhistory.si.edu/news/pressre...amp;newskey=390

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I was there in 1990 with two of my teachers from the violin making school, with a special permission through Peter Prier. Our mission was to photograph and make drawings of them. They were drawn by Kate MacLeod. The other teacher was Mario Miralles. We were also in the Library of Congress. The curator of the LOC said that he had never seen a more professional crew. Must not have been to many before us.. I remember carrying the Betts in a double case with a violin of mine through the library to a room with day light to study the varnish. Good times. :)

Here are a couple of photos that I took:

A. Stradivari 1704 "Betts"

The "Kreisler" Guarneri Del Gesù 1733

They're from the LOC, but whatever.. The drawings are from the LOC as well as the Smithsonian, or American History Museum if you want.

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I just had my Kreisler Del Gesu Strad poster out looking at it a couple of days ago. Man is that top rough looking. I bet, sometime in the past 280 years, it was owned my someone who played for drinks in bars. Probably carried it in a sack. I'm sure there were several fiddles by Del Gesu that didn't survive. No kings here, just players.

Berl

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"Ther are these "guys" a the LOC

http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/ihas/html/ins...lins.html"]http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/ihas/html/ins...gs-violins.htm"

That's a very interesting link, Dwight. It refers to a special video recording of all the LOC's Cremona

violins playing the same Bach piece. I wonder if that is available to the public yet? The photo links also refer to a dozen or more photos of each of those violins that LOC has taken (photographer Michael Zirkle). That collection apparently is accessible in the library's music division.

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