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An acquaintence of mine who deals in both violins and art told me that what you see for the future of violin authentification is current practice in the world of fine art. He said that there is no one in the art world who is an acknowledged expert on many artists. Instead, for each artist there is just one person whose opinion is widely regarded as the authoritative last word. That person has often written a PhD thesis on the artist.

Your comment certainly resonates with what I have stated prior. To make an objective statement on the authenticity of a work of art as the violin has become, one must have a profound library of knowledge unless the object in question is clear and unquestionable example of a well-known maker whose work is readily available for comparative purpose. Even with such a precaution, it would not be always possible to ascertain the authenticity without opening the instrument for further examination. With that said, as the technology advances, it might be possible in the nearest future to run a detailed scan of the internal workmanship of a particular violin to compare to a yet to be created database of physical scans of all known instruments.

I don't doubt that the future of violin authentication lies in the hands of scholars specializing in particular schools and makers.

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Because of the danger of spending big big bucks on a fake maybe performing artists would be well advised to buy instruments by well regarded living modern makers. If the maker is alive there is no problem with authentification and prices are reasonable compared to the old Italian instruments.

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Good point Gowan.It depends on whether you trust a dealer or not.I had real trust issues 12 years ago when I was shopping for a Modern Italian violin.I wanted an expert who could not only do the "wheeling and dealing" but someone whom I could sit down and listen to a lecture from regarding authenticity,history,set up ,repairs etc...It can be a leap of faith sometimes and I think all players get a case of the "jitters' when they start putting out the bucks....

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Because of the danger of spending big big bucks on a fake maybe performing artists would be well advised to buy instruments by well regarded living modern makers. If the maker is alive there is no problem with authentification and prices are reasonable compared to the old Italian instruments.

One of the big problems with expertise for modern instruments are the makers themselves and the times we live in. The farther back you go in time the more you see specific characteristics or traits being repeated among the followers of a particular school. If one looks at the makers around or influenced by Ettore Soffritti of Ferrara I can expect to see some common characteristics and also a maker's individual habits or quirks, as David said, that will help me to identify an instrument. I say help me because I have to presume the instrument is not right until I can be totally convinced to the contrary. There is no guarantee that an expert will get there. Experts who can put a name to everything they see put chills up my back. I have far greater respect for one who can say, in all sincerity, "I don't know". After all, in the René Vannes Encyclopedia there are listed thousands and thousands of makers. Who could know each and every one?

An expert is under tremendous pressure to call anything and everything Italian or every bow French and when the customer hears you say, "it's from the other side of the Alps" their jaw drops and they stare at you incredulous.

The more modern makers, due to mass communication, exposure to many different techniques, ease of travel and exchange of ideas, are no longer necessarily following the course set out by their original Maestro or later mentors and can very often change style and method completely within a brief period of time. It is truly a labyrinth.

Bruce

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The more modern makers, due to mass communication, exposure to many different techniques, ease of travel and exchange of ideas, are no longer necessarily following the course set out by their original Maestro or later mentors and can very often change style and method completely within a brief period of time. It is truly a labyrinth.

Bruce

Bruce,

That sounds reasonable enough, but:

In the 500 years that violins have existed, it's been only in the last 40 years or so that North America -- US and Canada -- has made contributions to fine violin making comparable in quantity and quality to the contributions of previous centers of violin making. The Italians dominate up to the last quarter of 18th century when the French become an important force for about 100 years. Then, beginning toward the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century, the Germans, Austrians, Czechs (let's call them "Germanic") enter into the picture as equals (maybe even "betters") to their Italian and French contemporaries.

Each of these emerging national groups -- Italians, French, Germanic-- has done its emerging with a distinctive, identifiable style, or so I'm told. Your quote above suggests that the development of a distinctive national style no longer takes place, not even in a place as new to fine violin making as North America, where violin making has erupted as equal to any other contemporary place.

I wonder though, whether, from your position outside of North America, you might see something of a consistent style or trademark that identifies a violin as North American. Maybe I'm chauvinistic, but it's hard to believe that North America would come this far, this fast, in violin making without creating something unique stylistically in its making.

Any thoughts you have about a "North American style" would be appreciated.

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Bruce,

That sounds reasonable enough, but:

In the 500 years that violins have existed, it's been only in the last 40 years or so that North America -- US and Canada -- has made contributions to fine violin making comparable in quantity and quality to the contributions of previous centers of violin making.

What about the fine makers of the mid 19th century and early 20th century such as Gemunders, of New York, Andrew Hyde,of North Hampton, MA the Stanley family of Newton, MA., Willliam Wilkanowski of N.Y. and others of that level ?

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What about the fine makers of the mid 19th century and early 20th century such as Gemunders, of New York, Andrew Hyde,of North Hampton, MA the Stanley family of Newton, MA., Willliam Wilkanowski of N.Y. and others of that level ?

North America can count a few dozen makers of professional quality prior to 1970, in total in a few hundred years of existence, while Italy, France and the "Germanic" countries can count hundreds of makers in each country in that same time period. After the late 1970's, the number of North American violin makers of professional quality jumps greatly so that today I doubt any region of the world has more professional quality makers than North America.

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North America can count a few dozen makers of professional quality prior to 1970, in total in a few hundred years of existence, while Italy, France and the "Germanic" countries can count hundreds of makers in each country in that same time period. After the late 1970's, the number of North American violin makers of professional quality jumps greatly so that today I doubt any region of the world has more professional quality makers than North America.

If you go through Thomas Wenberg's "The Violin Makers of the United States, ", Cyril Woodcock's "Dictionary of Contemporary Violin and Bowmakers," and the lesser scholarly John Fairfield's "Known Violin Makers." it will demonstrate that there were considerably more than a few dozen fine and professional American makers prior to 1970. It is true that we did not have the great violin making centers as Mittenwald,Klingenthal, Markneukirchen, Mirecourt or Schoenbach. We did have many makers trained here and those who came at the beginning of the great emigration to the US ca. 1850. It was at about 1850 when the American symphony orchestras were forming and they needed makers of and repairers for their instruments. I believe that during the great depression many fine instruments were crafted here as people had lots of time to persue their art. We are just now beginning to appreciate the work of the early American violin makers who in the past were not given much attention.

From the 1970's on violin making became more prominent in the U.S. due to the fact that we now had violin making schools within this country and they attracted many students, very skilled, young, energetic and able to promote their works. The advent of the internet certainly helped with getting the word out. Just look at this forum. I think that you might want to talk to David Bromberg about the American violin makers of the past.

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From the 1970's on violin making became more prominent in the U.S. due to the fact that we now had violin making schools within this country and they attracted many students, very skilled, young, energetic and able to promote their works.

IBK,

That's exactly the point I was trying to make, not the precise number of makers.

Prior to 1970, I don't think there were very many makers living in North America who had international reputations. In the late 1960's, when I took my Carl Becker and Son, 1956, violin to the Georg Winterling shop in Hamburg, Germany, they didn't show a whole lot of respect for that fire engine red fiddle, with its opaque, chippy varnish; just another student violin. I know there were some fine violins made in North America before 1970, but they were relatively small in number when viewed from the perspective of world production, and they stayed in North America, used by North American players, pretty much unknown to the rest of the world.

Today you can find Gregg Alf violins and Terry Borman violins all over the world, and David Burgess has one of his fiddles on museum display in Italy. The status of North American violin making has jumped phenomenally since 1970, and is now comparable to any group of makers anywhere.

But getting back to my main question, I can't help but wonder whether that drastic rise in quality violin making in North America starting in the late 1970's didn't impart a unique North American style to its making.

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nd is now comparable to any group of makers anywhere.

But getting back to my main question, I can't help but wonder whether that drastic rise in quality violin making in North America starting in the late 1970's didn't impart a unique North American style to its making.

This is an extremely important question. Today we have incredible details of the old Cremonese and other Italian schools. Great pictures and detailed measurements from deluxe books and internet visualizations. It seems to me that with all of that scholarly data, makers will use those classic models for their own work. I would think that this would not necessarily lead to an American nationalisitc style.

Before the time frame you reference, makers had only very grainy b&w half tone pictures to go by and there were no posters as in the Strad where you can see every scratch in living color no less and with every pertinent measurement. Without the "too much information" scenario they tended to be somewhat creative. Each with his or her own individuality and it would take some research to determine if a nationalistic sytle, even in a very elemental way existed. A great research project.

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