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Lion scroll violin


VanierJ

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I recently purchased this violin from a local shop. I'm wondering where it was made and when and any clues as to its value. It has patches to the top allong the inner side of each F hole. I'm curious about these if anyone knows what may have happened here. It also has other cracks allong the top that seem to be repaired. It has no lable inside. I'm new to playing but to my ear and the violin shop owners this violin sounds pretty good. My resurch on the web seems to point toword it beeing made in germany between 1850 to 1925 or so. Anyone have any information?

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Those lion heads, despite their intricacy, are machine made. I don't know if there was one machine selling their scrolls all across Europe (they show up on french as well as german violins) or if shops could buy their own machine. Saxony is indeed the most common source, and if Jacob says Schonbach (in Saxony), then that's that.

The instruments with that head are typically described as a "fancy" violin. You can find examples in the old retail catalogs that are compiled in Roy Ehrhardt's series "Violin Price and Identification Guide." For example in his Book 1, JW Pepper in 1900 lists one for $2. Those patches to the f holes might be repairs to mouse chews. Mice love to move into abandonned violins, and they like to widen the "doors" over time. I know all this because I had an old Saxon violin with that same head. Mine was built on a Hopf pattern and was not nearly as nice looking as yours (minus the repairs). It was a family "heirloom" (or what passes for an heirloom in Sacramento) and I invested in a new bass bar (yours likely has a cheaply carved bass bar, too) and new fingerboard and good set up. It doesn't sound bad, and it definitely served as a good gateway to a better instrument. That is, it didn't hold back my learning. If you bought yours recently, that price is probably your best indicator of retail value. For wholesale in various repaired conditions, check out ebay. They show up there all the time. Enjoy!

Richard

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I paid 400 for it. I was not thinking it was worth much at the time, but is sounded considerably better than the new student grade violins for 500-600 that where offered to me. And the sound was WAY better than some older violins that where in the same price range. So with the good sound, age, a decent setup and character (I'll take old repairs and cracks over new cheap stuff any day). I'm happy with it. I looked on eBay and did not find anything that I felt was of the same vintage and make as this violin.

One other thing I'll ask you guys... My first finger position on the A string, the B position very easily makes a squeak if I don't bow hard enough. Basically, if I bow fast I have to use allot of pressure and if I'm bowing slowly I still have to use more pressure than any other finger position. Anyone have any tips on this. I know that this is not the correct forum for this question but figured I'd ask here while I have a thread going.

Thanks for the help with Identification. The idea about the mouse home is really interesting and sounds feasible.

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Those lion heads, despite their intricacy, are machine made. I don't know if there was one machine selling their scrolls all across Europe (they show up on french as well as german violins) or if shops could buy their own machine. Saxony is indeed the most common source, and if Jacob says Schonbach (in Saxony), then that's that.

The instruments with that head are typically described as a "fancy" violin. You can find examples in the old retail catalogs that are compiled in Roy Ehrhardt's series "Violin Price and Identification Guide." For example in his Book 1, JW Pepper in 1900 lists one for $2. Those patches to the f holes might be repairs to mouse chews. Mice love to move into abandonned violins, and they like to widen the "doors" over time. I know all this because I had an old Saxon violin with that same head. Mine was built on a Hopf pattern and was not nearly as nice looking as yours (minus the repairs). It was a family "heirloom" (or what passes for an heirloom in Sacramento) and I invested in a new bass bar (yours likely has a cheaply carved bass bar, too) and new fingerboard and good set up. It doesn't sound bad, and it definitely served as a good gateway to a better instrument. That is, it didn't hold back my learning. If you bought yours recently, that price is probably your best indicator of retail value. For wholesale in various repaired conditions, check out ebay. They show up there all the time. Enjoy!

Richard

Funny,I never thought of them as machine made. There were several grades of them, from the simplest chip carved to really good work. it's amazing how cheap a mans time was then.

Conor

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Hi Conor. The observation that they were machine-made comes from the late great Al Stancel, one of the Maestronet's original posters, many years ago. I had first thought that mine (which looks exactly like Vanier's) had to be hand carved, but since then I have seen the same head on ebay hundreds of times. For example, just today I can find this one http://www.ebay.com/...N-/160875377957 and this one http://www.ebay.com/...n-/150890478255 and this one http://www.ebay.com/itm/VINTAGE-VIOLIN-STAINER-WITH-CARVED-LION-HEAD-SCROLL-4-4-SIZE-CASED-WITH-BOW-/330765544577. For sure there are nicer carvings out there, both by hand and by machine, especially with the Chinese now in the market (likely computer driven). But even with labor so cheap back then, Al convinced me there had to have been a machine involved. Coming well before the computer age, I'd love to know what it looked like.

Richard

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Those lion heads, despite their intricacy, are machine made. I don't know if there was one machine selling their scrolls all across Europe (they show up on french as well as german violins) or if shops could buy their own machine. Saxony is indeed the most common source.

The instruments with that head are typically described as a "fancy" violin.

Dear Richard,

Interesting: I had never heard nor imagined that the “lions”, which sometimes remind me a bit more of a pussy-cat, could be maschine made.

When I was an apprentice at the vm. school in Brienz, I had an evening job making the scroll-like feet (Fußli) for revolting looking swiss clock cases on a piecework basis. I recieved a jig to hold a pair of “Fußli” (one left, one right) and a crate of milled limewood blanks. The carpenter who made the clock cases had to put up with me, although there was also a wood carver school in Breinz, because none of the Swiss wood carvers wanted to make Fußli, which was about as exciting as peeling potatoes. With some practice, I rationalised te work down to 16 (I think) gouge cuts. The reason they had to be “hand made” was that a milling maschine wouldn`t have achieved the “hand carved” sharp edged feeling. I can’t help thinking that the same must apply to these “Lions”(cats) and apart from not really believing that they would have been technicaly possible by machine, labour was dirt cheap, so why bother. I certainly hope you havn’t bought many "French" violins with them on. In the catalogues I have, the “fancy violins” are the inlayed ones.

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I always thought they were made with this machine: http://www.jgmachinery.com/detail/index.php?itemid=10451 , where the rotary cutter is held stationary, and the workpiece was brought to it. At least 10 times faster than pushing a gouge. At least that's how it was done in the US, up into the 60s, when multi-spindle carvers took over. Those repetitive decorative cuts, for example, are perfectly suited to that kind of machine. I had some colleagues who haf been in the furniture production and rifle stock carving business since before WWII, and they introduced me to all kinds of history as I was growing up in the furniture manufacturing business.

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Maybe I should have asked Al "what is a machine"? I guess I was thinking of something where the wood went in one end and a lion's head came out the other. But perhaps a process with someone like Jacob slaving repetitively alongside or, Chaplin like, inside some collection of powered mechanisms -- whether a jig or Michael's rotary cutter -- would meet the definition. Clearly with this particular model of lion's head there was no room for human variation.

The lions remind me of kittens, too, before their eyes are open. The originals have long red tongue, which apparently is so creepy that everyone breaks them off. Few survive. Also, I think you are correct, Jacob, that "fancy" refers to the ones w/ the inlaid backs and edges. I think the bodies are equally cheap.

Richard

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I think machine work on historic fiddles is often overestimated on this board. Workers were much cheaper around the turn of 19/20th century in the Vogtland and Bohemia than machines, as it´s also today in China. The Verlegersytem in Saxony was based on buying and selling of finished fiddles from the cottage industry. The quality of the big workshops from this area which produced with employed (hand) workers and had own marketing is on a much higher level. See the fiddles of Heberlein, Roth, Schmidt, Enders, Dölling and others. There was an article about the short life of a Markneukirchen factory based on machines in the strad magazine recently. I´ve never seen exactly the same cuts especially in the decorative elements on these plain vanilla fiddles, as I don´t see the similarity of machines on Richards examples.

Mat

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I have, somewhere, a fantastic lion head. I can't find it now, but if I do I'll post a picture. The whole pegbox is carved, the lions body forms the pegbox back, with his feet and tail wrapped around the sides. His head is beautifully carved and forms the head. Has anyone seen one like this, and if so, where was it made? I don't have the rest of the fiddle.

Many thanks,

Conor

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I have, somewhere, a fantastic lion head. I can't find it now, but if I do I'll post a picture. The whole pegbox is carved, the lions body forms the pegbox back, with his feet and tail wrapped around the sides. His head is beautifully carved and forms the head. Has anyone seen one like this, and if so, where was it made? I don't have the rest of the fiddle.

Many thanks,

Conor

Do post a picture when you find it. I might want to copy it. Some of my market loves that kind of stuff, and I have a great carver available.

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Hi Connor,

I've seen plenty of lion heads before, but never one like that. Nice to see it still has the tongue! Think it will be hard to find out where it may have been made since you no longer have the body, but hopefully someone looking will have seen a similar one.

At the moment we have a lovely old viola with a lions head which is one of the nicest i've ever seen, it's carved from pear or a similar fruitwood.

post-29770-0-02103300-1347176227_thumb.jpg

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Hi Connor,

I've seen plenty of lion heads before, but never one like that. Nice to see it still has the tongue! Think it will be hard to find out where it may have been made since you no longer have the body, but hopefully someone looking will have seen a similar one.

At the moment we have a lovely old viola with a lions head which is one of the nicest i've ever seen, it's carved from pear or a similar fruitwood.

Hi dave,

That's fantastic, the detail is so fine. Who made the viola?

Mine is pearwood too, or something similar.

I often think that the carvers had only ever seen pictures of lions, and that their renderings were very good, given their source material.

Conor

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Hi Connor,

I've seen plenty of lion heads before, but never one like that. Nice to see it still has the tongue! Think it will be hard to find out where it may have been made since you no longer have the body, but hopefully someone looking will have seen a similar one.

At the moment we have a lovely old viola with a lions head which is one of the nicest i've ever seen, it's carved from pear or a similar fruitwood.

Dave: In my opinion that definitely looks like a hand carved lion. Lions would have been well known by the 19c. I'm sure there were some stuffed ones about and I would seriously doubt there was any attempt at doing anything other than a stylized version. Looks more like a leopard anyway.

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I'm pretty sure the cheap ones were carved by hand in a rote way, possibly using a driven knife as Nonado suggests. It's pretty obvious that almost every cut is made by the same v-shaped tool.

The head in my avatar is from one of Stainer's fiddles, though I can't remember which one, 1655 possibly. It's easy to see that it's a work of craftspersonship a step or three up from Conor's, which is another two or three or ten steps up from those cheesy chip-carved heads that probably took twenty minutes if the gouge was sharp.

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