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What or Why are wax seals on some instruments?


Ron1

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Mention of the wax seal on the Cannone prompted me to ask. This is a 1905 vintage instrument that was sold at auction in London a couple of years ago.

Who would attach a seal such as this, and what does it signify?

The wax seal on the 'Cannone' was placed there in 1851 when Baron Achille Paganini consigned his father's violin, as requested in his will, to the city of Genoa. The seal, at that time, was not applied to the scroll but to the back of the instrument. Later, it was removed and half the varnish in that spot of the back came away with it. It was then reapplied to the back of the scroll. The image pressed into the seal is of the city of Genoa.

It is, as Strad-Style says, a type of guarantee of integrity that was used mostly on official or legal documents such as wills, sales contracts etc. It could also be that there was some fear of the 'Cannone' being substituted with another violin. From 1859 the 'Cannone' was treated more like a religious relic as it was kept in a glass dome resting on a wooden base. The base of this dome was also secured with a wax seal and a full ceremony with various lawyers, notaries and city officials were present if it was deemed necessary to break the seal and open the container; to change a broken string or whatever.

There are wax seals that have been applied to instruments by the family that owned them or to indicate that they were inventoried as part of a collection.

Bruce

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The wax seal on the 'Cannone' was placed there in 1851 when Baron Achille Paganini consigned his father's violin, as requested in his will, to the city of Genoa. The seal, at that time, was not applied to the scroll but to the back of the instrument. Later, it was removed and half the varnish in that spot of the back came away with it. It was then reapplied to the back of the scroll. The image pressed into the seal is of the city of Genoa.

It is, as Strad-Style says, a type of guarantee of integrity that was used mostly on official or legal documents such as wills, sales contracts etc. It could also be that there was some fear of the 'Cannone' being substituted with another violin. From 1859 the 'Cannone' was treated more like a religious relic as it was kept in a glass dome resting on a wooden base. The base of this dome was also secured with a wax seal and a full ceremony with various lawyers, notaries and city officials were present if it was deemed necessary to break the seal and open the container; to change a broken string or whatever.

There are wax seals that have been applied to instruments by the family that owned them or to indicate that they were inventoried as part of a collection.

Bruce

Bruce, thanks for explanation. You are realy a great source for all kind of historical informations.

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The wax seal on the 'Cannone' was placed there in 1851 when Baron Achille Paganini consigned his father's violin, as requested in his will, to the city of Genoa. The seal, at that time, was not applied to the scroll but to the back of the instrument. Later, it was removed and half the varnish in that spot of the back came away with it. It was then reapplied to the back of the scroll. The image pressed into the seal is of the city of Genoa.

Any explanation for the change of location of the seal?

When I photographed the Cannone in London (see Gallery), it seemed to me that the round coin shaped loss of varnish was rather close to the larger triangular loss caused by shoulder wear. Could it be that the large seal was rubbing the shoulder of a player?

-------------

Just rechecked the Cannone photo - the shoulder rubbing hypothesis does not look feasible. The varnish loss is too far apart.

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Not that the seal illustrated in the photo is of this sort, but some gov'ts. customs agents have been known to place wax or composite seals on items that are being temporarily imported (for restoration or exhibit). These days, it's usually on a wire or plastic loop. It ensures that the same item is exported as was imported. I had a small collection of them when (at "the firm") I sent instruments home with a restorer that worked for the company, but lived in Fussen.

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Not that the seal illustrated in the photo is of this sort, but some gov'ts. customs agents have been known to place wax or composite seals on items that are being temporarily imported (for restoration or exhibit). These days, it's usually on a wire or plastic loop. It ensures that the same item is exported as was imported. I had a small collection of them when (at "the firm") I sent instruments home with a restorer that worked for the company, but lived in Fussen.

Thank you, Jeffrey. That may be the more plausible explanation for this particular seal, as the instrument itself is not particularly special, and the way it was done seems as though it was likely intended to be temporary.

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Any explanation for the change of location of the seal?

When I photographed the Cannone in London (see Gallery), it seemed to me that the round coin shaped loss of varnish was rather close to the larger triangular loss caused by shoulder wear. Could it be that the large seal was rubbing the shoulder of a player?

-------------

Just rechecked the Cannone photo - the shoulder rubbing hypothesis does not look feasible. The varnish loss is too far apart.

Hi Janito,

It is easiest to see in this old black and white photograph taken before 1937. I've marked the area concerned.

Bruce

post-29446-1276455995_thumb.jpg

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Thanks Bruce.

Given the potential to damage the varnish, I am curious to know the reason why the seal was moved. Any info?

Hi Janito,

It was done a long time ago and added only insult to injury. The real motives behind this type of behavior are difficult for us to comprehend. Another place, another time, another mentality...

Somebody probably told them it shouldn't be on the back! :)

Bruce

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FWIW, I have a 1920s-era Calace mandolin that has a seal on the edge of the label. I assume it was placed there to assure the integrity of the label, helping to prevent re-use of the label on a non-Calace instrument.

Being on the inside it is not going to damage the finish, nor impact the sound.

Given that the Calace firm was well respected, it's reasonable to assume that the many Neapolitan makers who were building during that era would have liked to profit from a bit of label forgery. Aside from being a hotbed of mandolin construction, I believe that Naples, and the south of Italy in general, has long been considered somewhat ethically challenged, so to speak. Or so the Romans would prefer to believe.

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  • 4 years later...
  • 1 month later...

I would not have opened a new topic, so: here is another type of seal, what I'd like to know more about, if some kind Maestronaut could help:post-76393-0-81843100-1418936820_thumb.jpg post-76393-0-16997200-1418936844_thumb.jpg.

 

The violin was advertised on the "local eBay" and the seller said that the violin is certainly more than 100 years old. That information is all that he said about the violin. I have not seen the violin, but it seems younger to me, someway.

post-76393-0-08135100-1418937420_thumb.jpgpost-76393-0-85479100-1418937429_thumb.jpgpost-76393-0-79833100-1418937484_thumb.jpg

post-76393-0-73100300-1418937461_thumb.jpgpost-76393-0-81867600-1418937469_thumb.jpgpost-76393-0-17595900-1418937448_thumb.jpg

 

That grain on the back seems to me as painted, but if one look through the f-hole, the nice grain is clearly visible, so why painted grain?

 

I wonder if these things are unusual only to me. (Sorry about the bad quality of the pictures - were stolen from the website :D)

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The seal is hard to make out, but looks genuinely old.  The Three Graces?  This type of seal is most likely not heraldic.  It could be Roman, though.  Ancient cut seals were very popular collectibles in the 18th/19th centuries, and widely copied and used.

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There is a certain kind of Caussin (which commonly comes with Arturo Barini labels, or Duke stamps) that has a black, slightly smudged seal on the button. I played on one as a kid, and people always commented on it thinking that the violin must be something special because of it. I'm sure that the effect was just as good back in the 1880s when it was made. I've seen one or two others where there has been a fairly spurious seal which also makes them look special, aside from the few I have seen which - like the Canone - at least appear to have one for administrative reasons.

 

Incidentally, you do find similar seals on the backs of paintings, and on some furniture from inventoried stately homes.

 

The seal on Omobono's 1588 Brothers Amati would seem to be fairly spurious to me. It's quite clearly derived from an intaglio-carved gem, and by the looks of it an 18th century knock-off, rather than a Roman or earlier original. Originals, copies, and inparticular plaster casts of these were extraordinarily popular amongst 18th century gentlement on the grand tour in Italy, so possibly the appearance of the same thing on the Amati might suggest that it was sold out of Italy in a grand-tour context. Many instruments were.

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  • 4 years later...

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