Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

To polish or not to polish?


vlnhunter

Recommended Posts

Well, the dealer puts a price on the thing based on all the criteria you mention, and an "original condition" instrument might be appraised higher, based on research. But violins don't come with an MSRP, and a dealer can ask whatever they think the market will bare. Obviously they start with "pie in the sky" assumptions because it's easier to bargain down than to push the price up after they've so "authoritatively" researched past sales.

Certainly a collector will value "original condition" more highly than a player, who after all only has to make his living with it. That doesn't necessarily mean that a rich collector will pay a premium. Again, it all comes down to the market at any given point in time.

Despite the fact that I'm not a maker, I do have a substantial base of experience from which to judge. A possibility is that at one time French polishing was considered acceptable, and then opinion changed. Whatever, I've bought 3 instruments from Moennig, and I know what I'm talking about.

In the end, either polish or not, I don't have a pony in that race. But it's fruitless to seek opinions if everyone already agrees ahead of time.

In any event, I'd love to see pictures of what a $450,000 viola looks like. Are you going to post pictures or are we all going to have to beg??

That's my point. Real research in an appraisal valuation includes past SALES, not just gut or taste. Pricing for a future sale may be include the folly of wishful thinking,but what I stated is based on actual results, not speculation.

BTW: I knew the Moennigs, know Dick and know Phil. Talk to them. I don't think you'll find they disagree with me... and I'm not picking on your personal purchases. At a certain point, less conservative restoration was also acceptable ("just patch it"), but times change. Truth is, in 50 years, some of what we do now may be considered primitive and harmful. Still, I think it's best to try and keep in front of the wave than be covered by it.

I'll edit some photos (size) and put 'em up later.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 57
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Since you talk to Dick and Phil (he said, conveniently dropping names in his wake...) why don't you ask them if Moennig ever sold expensive instruments that had been French polished, and get back to us with the results?

I mean, did they sell them because they were fine instruments and the shop wanted to be "associated" with their acquisition and sale, French polish be damned?

Or did they simply sell them for filthy lucre?

Were they just doing the bidding of their boss downstairs at his workbench?

Over the years I must have played 50 nice cellos at Moennig's alone, and bought three of them. Some had a highly reflective finish that looked to this amateur like they had been French polished, others not. Apparently it was less of an issue for them than it is for today's makers.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Stilldoinit,

Are you seeking information, offering to give some, or simply baiting people into a confrontation? Maybe it's worth re-reading posts already given to realize that everybody will concede that fiddles, very fine fiddles, have been French polished. We've all seen them. That's part of the past. The question, going forward, is whether French polishing is a good idea if the goal is preservation of the originality of the instrument.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

...did they sell them because they were fine instruments and the shop wanted to be "associated" with their acquisition and sale, French polish be damned?..

I suspect they sold these instruments because they could make money from the sales. That's what they were in business for.

...Or did they simply sell them for filthy lucre?...

They probably sold them for money. You can call it what you want. Perhaps there were trades involved, also.

...Were they just doing the bidding of their boss downstairs at his workbench?...

Whose bidding would they do if not the boss's?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow, quite the thread! Just to re-cap:

French Polishing was popular in the past.

French Polishing is less popular today and frowned on by many.

Vinhunter wants help figureing out whether or not he should agree to a customers request to French Polish a violin today.

Given what we know about the past and the present, my question would be: Ten years from now, would you want to be known as the man who French Polished THAT violin? If so, do it and put YOUR repair label inside it. If not, decline the customers request.

In the words of Forest Gump: "Tha's all I've got to say about that."

-----Barry

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Since you talk to Dick and Phil (he said, conveniently dropping names in his wake...) why don't you ask them if Moennig ever sold expensive instruments that had been French polished, and get back to us with the results?

I mean, did they sell them because they were fine instruments and the shop wanted to be "associated" with their acquisition and sale, French polish be damned?

Or did they simply sell them for filthy lucre?

Were they just doing the bidding of their boss downstairs at his workbench?

Over the years I must have played 50 nice cellos at Moennig's alone, and bought three of them. Some had a highly reflective finish that looked to this amateur like they had been French polished, others not. Apparently it was less of an issue for them than it is for today's makers.

Personally, I welcome your participation here. You sound like an interesting person.

However, since you joined the board on the 18th of March you've made 10 posts, most on this thread. I find your manner and presentation a bit strange if you didn't wish to cause a firestorm. As you can see by the responses of other participants here, it seems it's not just me who has noticed. Do you respond like this on the 'cello forum? Haven't spent the time to check yet.

I'm happy to discuss your views, but not in this current debate style. I feel it's tiring rather than challenging... Maybe it's 'cause we don't "know" you well enough yet? It's up to you how we continue... but if you wish to actually have a conversation, the style just is not working for me. Your responses give me the impression you really haven't read what others have written and the post above actually seems a little caustic.

No one is attacking Moennig... they were a grand old shop... but in the trade, they are not sinless. While they may have been a little slow about it, to their credit, they changed some procedures in the last decade or two they were in business. Many others of us have changed our approaches with time, for that matter.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

""A possibility is that at one time French polishing was considered acceptable, and then opinion changed.""

That one statement has hit the nail on the head, if you take a deep breadth and re-read what people have said you will /should realise that no-one is disagreeing with that statement. French polished fine instruments are what players have been conditioned to seeing over the past 100 years or so (or maybe longer).But it is not what they would look like if they had not been French polished .They develope a texture and patina ,quite similar to an old master oil painting.Which look you prefer is entirely up to you .

Link to comment
Share on other sites

French Polishing was popular in the past.

French Polishing is less popular today and frowned on by many.

I only use French polish when I'm wearing my 19th century improver costume. I keep a jar of it next to my fake labels. :P

They didn't use the term "reversablility" much in those days. Now we do. B)

Many of the finest instruments were "improved" in the past. Those that weren't need to stay as they are.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From a couple of stilldoinit's posts in this thread:

"...whether it was R. Donovan or Ken Jacobs..."

"Was it done by Morel at Francais, where I met him?"

There were a number of other statements in stilldoinit's posts meant to infer self-importance, and no point in mentioning the above names, other than blatant name-dropping.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To everyone: I sincerely apologize for my tone, and my part in the course this discussion has taken. I had no idea there was such a thing as a "cello thread", but it seems to me that the issue of varnish would apply in any event.

If you re-read, you'll notice that I copped to a lack of bona fides in the very first paragraph of my first post on this particular thread. Seems to me after I admitted that I looked at the issue from a player's perspective, I need not be lectured on the fine points of Frenching a fiddle. I was only saying that I had seen many fiddles at Moennig (and indeed at other places in NY...) that looked, to this amateur eye, as if they had been French polished at some point in their lives.

As to the Deconet, I can't imagine that the purchaser cared one way or the other whether the varnish had been Frenched or not. It is an exceptional instrument for many reasons OTHER THAN the condition of its varnish, and in spite of it's $450,000 price tag, it seemed to sell in a flash. I know that by the time I called (Boston) to inquire, it was already out "on approval." (I don't need to explain all the reasons, you all know them at least as well as I...)

In any event, I apologize again. I suggest this would be an excellent time to mutually lay down arms, link arms and sing "Kumbaya". After enough beers I may even relate the story of how I found an authentic del Gesu in my uncle's attic. I'm dying to get an appraisal from B&F so I can surprise him with the news of how unexpectedly wealthy he has become. Hell, he may even buy his nephew a Ferrari as a "thank you" gift!

Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!

Peace out.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To everyone: I sincerely apologize for my tone, and my part in the course this discussion has taken. I had no idea there was such a thing as a "cello thread", but it seems to me that the issue of varnish would apply in any event.

For me, apology accepted but it's a bonus. All I wished was a change in tone. Thank you.

I wasn't referring to a 'cello thread. I was referring to the 'cello forum (internet 'cello society).

As to the Deconet, I can't imagine that the purchaser cared one way or the other whether the varnish had been Frenched or not. It is an exceptional instrument for many reasons OTHER THAN the condition of its varnish, and in spite of it's $450,000 price tag, it seemed to sell in a flash. I know that by the time I called (Boston) to inquire, it was already out "on approval." (I don't need to explain all the reasons, you all know them at least as well as I...)

Wrong Deconet viola (and wrong price), though that (the one you mentioned) was a very nice instrument. I saw it at several different stages of it's restoration. A very interesting project and well conceived/excecuted. It was reduced (a process that also has fallen by the wayside) at one point and was being re-sized to the original dimensions... and had been polished in the past. It was very fine but didn't quite look like this one:

post-17-0-32810500-1301159364_thumb.jpg

I'll try to add a few more photos when I have time, but probably not for a few days...

Peace out.

Welome to the board!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Del Gesu in the attic...hopefully it did not spend too much time there otherwise you will be giving John Becker a ton of cash for restoration. Good luck on the appraisal...

Maybe he'll bring it with him to Oberlin for the restoration workshop. :)

Sounds like an interesting story. Anybody want to offer details? I'm lost.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've played on 3 Strad cellos in my life: 2 at Wurlitzer were not polished, bu the Piatti owned by Parisot certainly was.

So the question is, did Parisot have the instrument polished? Was it done by Morel at Francais, where I met him? Did it come that way from the factory? Was it done by a previous owner to make it look "prettier"?

Carlos Prieto is the current owner of the Piatti. Parisot has never owned it.

My answers to your questions are: no, no, probably, probably not. To me the Piatti does not look French polished.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I may even relate the story of how I found an authentic del Gesu in my uncle's attic. I'm dying to get an appraisal from B&F so I can surprise him with the news of how unexpectedly wealthy he has become. Hell, he may even buy his nephew a Ferrari as a "thank you" gift!

Peace out.

If you wait until after the appraisal to tell the story, it might be really interesting regardless of how the appraisal goes.

-----Barry

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, got it.

No problem "skingfiddler", but that was actually directed at "stilldoinit".

I just figured that if his appraisal came back negative, the story of hope and anticipation could be just as good a story as the one about the fabled attic find.

Either way it could be good reading. ;-)

-----Barry

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Carlos Prieto is the current owner of the Piatti. Parisot has never owned it.

My answers to your questions are: no, no, probably, probably not. To me the Piatti does not look French poli[shed.

Mr. Preito only acquired the Piatti 30 years ago. According to this source, at the time I played it the cello was owned by the Marlborough Foundation, and despite my research, I can't/don't have the time to seek out information on that.

That being said, it is not at all unusual for an expensive instrument to be owned by a foundation, and loaned out to a respected/reliable/talented person for use. (In fact, Mr. Ma [i'm really trying not to name-drop] doesn't own the Strad he left in the back of the cab; it is owned by a foundation)

When I chanced to meet Mr. Parisot [sorry!], it was sometime in the early 70's because I was in the Army stationed just outside New York. This chance meeting happened at Francais [sorry!!]. The instrument had just been repaired by Rene [ sorry!!!], and Mr. Parisot asked me to play it for him, pro'ly because he wasn't completely satisfied/convinced about the sound/adjustment.

So to continue...Mr. Parisot, the highly respected professor at Yale [!], cellist of the Yale Quartet [!!], who happened to be the cousin of the Principal Cellist of the Detroit Symphony [R.I.P.], apparently had use of the instrument at the time in question. In spite of a prominent career, it is unlikely he could afford to purchase it. And anyway, the Marlborough Foundation (whoever they are...), didn't exactly lose any money on the deal. Presumably the value of the instrument was pushed up because Mr. Parisot found it suitable for concertizing.

So as I was saying...I played the cello in the front salon overlooking 57th. Street [!!!!!]; standing in front of me were Mr. Parisot, Jacques [!!!!] and Rene [Ohforgetit]. I was very young, and I looked inside the instrument, I looked up and naively asked, "Is this a real Strad???" Only time in my life I witnessed 3 famous men laughing, and that fact that I was the source of humour was only slightly embarrassing. Being a small-town kid from the Midwest, in the "big city" for the first time in my life, even I knew the name Stradivari.

The instrument in question was what experts in the field like to refer to as "cerise", even though I thought of it as red, and the belly was in a highly-polished state. I trust this settles the issue for you.

Here is the source:

http://www.cozio.com/Instrument.aspx?id=283

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For the record, I'm not a maker or restorer, just an avid reader.

My post was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, with the cheek aimed at the topic, not any particular poster.

My point was supposed to be (if you could hear me with my foot in my mouth :( ) what used to be done isn't always what still should be done. Look at some of the old restoration manuals, for example. Scrubbing the insides with soap and water??!!?? :blink:

On the other hand, if an instrument was polished long ago, that is part of its history.

Sorry if I mis-read the mood of the topic. :unsure:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.



×
×
  • Create New...