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Roger Hill

old Italian violin varnish recipes?

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I've been pondering whether the art community, which was developing it's techniques at the same time as the violin was developing, and also used varnish, might have preserved for us some of the old Italian violin varnish recipes. What I have found is that etching and engraving developed at roughly the same time as the Amati family began making violins, and that one of the founding figures in that community, Jacque Callot, used the same varnish as the lute and furniture/cabinet makers for preparing the plates for engraving/etching.

The engraving process involves putting a protective "ground" over the metal plate, scratching the figure through the ground with a graver, and then dipping the plate in acid (mordant) to etch the metal plate along the lines through the ground, while the ground protects the rest of the plate from the acid. The ground innovation by Callot was to use varnish to coat the plate. A book written in 1745 by Abraham Bosse indicates that Callot told the author, i.e. Bosse, that he bought his varnish from suppliers in Italy. It further gives a varnish recipe with the notation that it is from Callot. There is also a recipe for a simple mastic varnish to be used as an engraving ground. If you do a Google search on "Jacque Callot" you will find numerous references to "lute makers varnish" as his innovation.

I haven't been able to find any references to this on Maestronet. Anybody know more about this? Any experience with these recipes? The first "hard Ground" recipe at the first link is a leaner varnish than I normally associate with violin varnish. The second, the mastic varnish, has no rosin in it, is similar to Michael's mastic varnish, but without turpentine and it is lightly cooked. Also, note that the the second link is to a Google translation of an article in German. Please tell me what you know about this. Thanks

http://www.polymetaal.nl/beguin/mape/etching_ground.htm

http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=e...-24_9574090.pdf

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There are indeed old recipes, and this does come up periodically (i.e. a Marciana Manuscript recipe comes up often). A good resource for these is the Merrifield book Medieval and Renaissance Treatises On The Arts Of Painting.

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There are indeed old recipes, and this does come up periodically (i.e. a Marciana Manuscript recipe comes up often). A good resource for these is the Merrifield book Medieval and Renaissance Treatises On The Arts Of Painting.

Hi Andres:

Of course I have seen the Marciana recipe, but what I haven't seen is anything that ties the recipes to the luthiers of the era, as the etching sites seem to do. Does the Merrifield book do this?

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MANFIO   

I think that the prevailing idea today is that there was no specific varnish for violins, that during the Italian golden age period varnishes were made for multiple purposes and that makers adapted them for their purposes.

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Hi Andres:

Of course I have seen the Marciana recipe, but what I haven't seen is anything that ties the recipes to the luthiers of the era, as the etching sites seem to do. Does the Merrifield book do this?

The Marciana recipe includes a reference to being particularly good for lutes, and it is in Merrifield. There is at least one other recipe in the book which mentions lutes.

The Callot reference is interesting but it would be nice to see the original sources to sort out the conflicting 'hard ground' recipes.

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The Marciana recipe includes a reference to being particularly good for lutes, and it is in Merrifield. There is at least one other recipe in the book which mentions lutes.

The Callot reference is interesting but it would be nice to see the original sources to sort out the conflicting 'hard ground' recipes.

Thanks, Andres. Very interesting. Is the other recipe something others here have tried? We don't seem to be overwhelmed by old artists references saying they got their varnish from the luthier, pharmacy, cabinet shop and that it came with the recipe attached to the bottle.

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The 2nd recipe which mentions lutes is a cooked mastic/oil varnish and is also from the Marciana manuscript. One wonders idly whether Callot had access to that manuscript or a copy.

Roger you can check out Merrifield on Google books. The actual translated manuscripts are in Vol. II.

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Will L   

Hi all,

Re Quiroga Losada

Manuel Quiroga(Losada) was a great turn of the twentieth century Spanish violinist. You can hear him on You Tube. He was good enough that Ysaye dedicated one of his unaccompanied sonatas to him. How he got involved in varnish I don't know, but from a historical sense it would be fun to know. Of course we all know that even great musicians can fall for quackery.

Will L

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