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Melvin Goldsmith

Lady Blunt

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Today I went with luthier friend Douglas MacArthur to view the Lady Blunt. It was a very worthwhile trip!. The instrument remains on view in London for one day tomorrow( June 20th). I expected there to be a queue to see this instrument but there was never more than one or two other people looking. That shocked me a bit!!..I would urge anyone who has an interest in the Old Cremonese or Strad himself a chance to go see this fiddle. ( it might be a last chance) It is nearly as pristine as Le Messie but that small extra amount of wear is very informative with regard to the varnish.

( I thought of posting this in threads started by others who have seen the Blunt but felt that that would be a bit like high jacking their personal experience)

First thing I would say it to urge any folk left who still have the opportunity to see this violin to take it.

Right now I feel quite over stimulated by the experience and will be a long time computing in my mind what I saw and what I saw though my friend's eyes. The first thing I would say is how great it was to have a friend and colleague along to share the experience..naturally you notice different things but also can run them past each other to make sure you are not imagining what is there.

The back of the Blunt as it was displayed in it's glass case was illuminated by natural light from a window. In that light the varnish looked orange colored and the ground looked yellow. The front of the violin relied on gentle lighting from the display case and looked a darker red in that light as might be expected.

Illuminated by day light the back showed a lot of texture from the wood but no strings of fiber that one might expect from a scraped surface even with blade scrapers...I got the impression that tool marks were quite profuse but that a rigorous final smoothing had been done with abrasive powder on a cloth or leather rubber,

In photos the look of the ground seems a bit stained and this effect seemed quite marked in real life..more that I would expect to see...If I was going to try to replicate it from all I have tried, Saconni's/ Weisshaars Tutti Gialli that I used 20 years ago came to mind!...maybe over a very weak size. The brick red varnish seems to sit on the wood with no obvious clear coat. It is thinner and darker than on Le Messie but similar. This varnish clings to every feature of the wood texture as if it was a shrink wrap...looking at surface reflections you can see it disapearing into pores in the wood indicating that no filler was used. It seems to be attracted to follow the surface irregularities of the wood that a coat of oil rich varnishes might not do because of their self levelling qualities. The varnish was extremely complex and attractive but simple at the same time....People have talked long over time about transparency and we do often see that but in the case of the Blunt it is a much more complex situation quite well illustrated in the varnish layers on show...

There is a flat platform outside the edge fluting under the FB but we both forgot to bring torches to get a better view of what was Strad of JBV in that region.

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Hey, I envy you! Thanks for sharing!

Ditto! Thanks for your thoughts.

Re: tool marks, reading Diderot's entry on violin, he mentions dogfish skin.

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People have talked long over time about transparency and we do often see that but in the case of the Blunt it is a much more complex situation quite well illustrated in the varnish layers on show...

The whole notion of transparency in violin varnish is rather confusing, at least to me.

In the everyday sense, something is transparent if it can be clearly seen through; the more clearly, the more transparent it is. Clear glass, then, is a highly transparent substance.

But a violin varnish with the clarity of clear glass would probably be a pretty hard varnish in order to achieve that kind of transparency (I'm guessing), not to mention lacking totally in color and being rather glossy. It would probably be an undesirable varnish both acoustically and visually.

I remember seeing a Strad cello at the Library of Congress in 1999, which had escaped polishing. I would not have called its varnish transparent in the everyday (above) sense of the word. Its most striking features were a deep red color and a surface texture which would have felt slightly bumpy under the fingers. We've seen that texture in many photos of unpolished, old finishes on Maestronet.

For my own purposes, I've redefined "transparency" in violin varnishes as allowing the figure and the textures of the wood to be seen and even be visually enhanced, while adding a sense of depth, texture and color to the visual experience. "Clarity," or at least perfect clarity, really isn't a key element.

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how does this compare with Joe's observations? It seems like you are seeing fewer layers than he saw ?

Hi Mike. I think my observations agreed with those of my colleague Douglas. But on the other hand Joe saw the violin in more light conditions and for longer and probably at closer distance than we did. Plus Cremonese varnish has that certain enigmatic quality so I would not be surprised if it looks different to how I remember it if I am ever lucky enough to see the Blunt again!

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Hi Mike. I think my observations agreed with those of my colleague Douglas. But on the other hand Joe saw the violin in more light conditions and for longer and probably at closer distance than we did. Plus Cremonese varnish has that certain enigmatic quality so I would not be surprised if it looks different to how I remember it if I am ever lucky enough to see the Blunt again!

Interesting, you have a 'Tutti Gialli' experience and Joe had a 'Nessun Colori Gialli' experience.

Joe are you colour blind? :blink::lol:

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Thanks for sharing Melvin. What's your sense of the top arch height vs. the Messiah?

Hi Andres

I must admit that was not something I was checking out but the long arches of the Blunt were quite streamlined and the arch height was quite near Le Messie I think. This might be recorded in the Beare/Carlson Strad exhibition book.

The arches of the Blunt looked to me like the work of a man who had formed a very concrete idea of what he wanted the form to be or was supervising assistants very closely..It does not have the art and delicacy of earlier works where maybe his own hand is most of what we see. The arching in the C bouts is right out to the edge on the Blunt with just enough room for the fluting gouge.

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Following on Andres' question, I wonder what were the truly salient differences between the two?

Hi Mike...there is a huge amount in common between the two...In my mind its is possible that there were more hands than Strad's in the production but that he was the producer. The recent Strad article on the Messie gives a good insight into the F hole placing and is one reason why these fiddles look a bit different...It ties in with Roger Hargraves analysis with how the rib garland was aligned and how the neck was aligned.

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One other impression I got from looking at the Blunt varnish was that the finish was not the result as the Hills implied at one time of careful layers over many months but simply something that was done in a day or two with a very commercial objective in mind... Attached below is a quick effort that I did in two days using a stain and an oil varnish..It was dry enough to scan...Just an experiment and could be done better.

post-23531-0-18365200-1308692552_thumb.jpg

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The whole notion of transparency in violin varnish is rather confusing, at least to me.

For my own purposes, I've redefined "transparency" in violin varnishes as allowing the figure and the textures of the wood to be seen and even be visually enhanced, while adding a sense of depth, texture and color to the visual experience. "Clarity," or at least perfect clarity, really isn't a key element.

ski,

Transparency in violin varnish is the same as it is anywhere else. Basically you need to ask yourself if you can see the wood under the varnish...and how well.....the difference between seeing a little and seeing everything is called mass tone....how much mass [chunks that are not transparent] obscures the clarity. For me, a good varnish is more translucent than transparent as the light is scattered more than reflected. True that "perfect clarity" does not apply. Also,clarity and the degree of polish are not the same thing.

Mike C,

I had the good fortune to be able to see the Lady blunt with an excellent hand held magnifier. The application layers were self-evident at the edges of the wear pattern.

Met Mr. Buen at Oberlin makers workshop...MN is everywhere these days!

on we go,

Joe

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