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Michele Deconet


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Venetian school is still partially known. An attribution of the instruments made by these 21 mentioned violin makers has not yet made: it is a huge work that request the contribute of many. I don’t know if it will be possible also.

For sure the main part of instruments passing under the name of Deconet was made by them.

If it is weird the appearing of labels with Deconet name, it is more weird the total lack of labels of these violin makers. On this question nobody seems to reflect enough.

I think that it can be partially explained with the general interest to avoid taxes selling unlabelled instruments (Goffriller docet) that have been after that relabelled with the name of Deconet. But we are here in the land of theory and speculation.

I was going back over the thread and hit the quote above. Thanks, Professor. I missed this earlier, call it "cockpit overload", but it's consonant with what I've been saying. We don't know, so more research is needed. Finito.

Now, back to the OP's question, is it a genuine "Deconet" (whatever that is) or not?

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Excuse me, but going further any further argumentative off-subject posts (concerning Wegener etc.) will not be tolerated, As a matter of fact, several previous posts may disappear.

I've made myself relatively clear about the posturing. I'm not impressed.

Discussions like this one make MN valuable, in my opinion. I will not allow them to be sidetracked by displays of ego mixed with what seems to be testosterone.

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Discussions like this one make MN valuable, in my opinion. I will not allow them to be sidetracked by displays of ego mixed with what seems to be testosterone.

Well, there goes the ball game...

But seriously, I'd be interested to hear Mr. Reuning's opinion on the matter, esp since it was his firm that had a Deconet viola for sale a couple years back. I mean, a friend of mine used to say that, regarding the maker of a given instrument, "it is whatever Moennig says it is". Is that the same case for Reuning today?

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Vclatl,

Deconet is probably the most prolific of later Venetian violinmakers. He left a large group of instruments with original labels. I see him as a regular maker who progressed gradually, but whose instruments all hang together very well as a group. That said, I think he has been one of the more missidentified makers over the last 100 years.

The backwards logic of Pio, when applied to makers from across Italy not to mention makers acclaimed in his own books, would render many others as musician, non-makers. Amongst other mistakes, he does not seem to understand what Venetian Guild membership signifies.

It appears to me that Pio has started with theory and has bent the facts to fit his theory. Does he use the same measure, then, with other makers in his book? Has anyone else bothered to wade through these books?

By the same measure, I could state that Stradivari learned from Martians. Where are the facts to disprove my theory? Can anyone prove otherwise?

Chris

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To my mind the issue here has always been one of conflicting evidence. On one hand we have reasonable evidence that a body of work was made with the intention of being labelled for Michele Deconet – whether made by him, or made by assistants or outworkers. On the other hand we have a stack of documents which have the appearance – through the lens of the 21st century – to make a compelling argument that Deconet wasn’t remotely involved in the business of violin making or selling. The problem here is when we allow one set of evidence to trump the other. If we make the declaration that “Deconet was not a violin maker”, we have to reconcile that with the evidence of a group of instruments with his label legitimately in them. Claiming that this evidence is invalid is, to my mind, where things become problematic. Knowing, however, that the Deconet presents more complicated issues than most other Venetian violinmakers, leaving an understanding of his working life as yet unresolved, is as far as we can go from a scholarly perspective if we are of a mind that respects the archival data as much as we respect the conclusions that can be made from a collective examination of his instruments. Deconet, it seems will remain an anomaly for some time to come, providing unexplained questions. I feel that scholarship falls short of its expected requirements when it is confronted with questions of this sort, and seeks to impose an answer prematurely, forcing necessary concessions in the process.

As for attribution, given what has been raised in this post, an attribution to Deconet must still be entirely legitimate. In time we might possibly - if it proves to be the case - be able to identify specific traits within Deconet’s work that indicates one assistant or outworker as opposed to another, and those elements of connoisseurship will provide an enhanced view. However these are instruments made and sold for the first time within the specific context of Deconet’s name and enterprise, even if the circumstances can’t be explained.

EDIT: This post was written simultaneous to Chris's (above) and posted a couple of minutes later. Chris's observations make these contentions somewhat redundant.

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I think the debate about Deconet is missing some key points. Mr. Reuning and experts like him have had the chance to see dozens if not over a hundred examples of instruments that seem plausibly to have been made by the same maker(s) at the same time in the same place. The overall consensus is that these violins were made by Deconet.

That doesn't mean that Mr. Pio is wrong, nor does Mr. Pio's assertion that Deconet was only a player/reseller mean these violins considered "Deconets" are worthless junk. Maybe they were made for Deconet by a forgotten workman, maybe they all got labeled over the last couple of centuries as "Deconets," but that doesn't change the quality of the instruments in question.

Archival research is an interesting thing, because it is throwing up interesting questions all of the time. A similar case of someone long considered to have been a great maker, Lorenzo Guadagnini, father of G.B., who has been shown to have been an inn-keeper who never seems to have made a violin, seems to have become part of the general consensus. G.B. Guadagnini may have been responsible himself, making fake "Lorenzo's" in order to pretend he came from a dynasty of makers. Over the centuries, similar Piacenza-school violins got re-labeled as Lorenzo Guadagninis, and I once played a magnificent violin at Mr. Reuning's shop that had just taken the plunge from exalted Guad status to "humble" Lorenzini, and it still sounded just as good! (If I had the money at the time, I would have bought it)

Passions flare up because we know that a fiddle's value is based on its authenticity, and we know that over time many violins have been passed off as something they aren't. The case made by Mr. Pio as I understand it is not that all these violins considered Deconets until now are cheap fakes, it's that we should be more interested in who was working in all those big Venetian shops, and what did they do outside the big shops, and stop just pretending that the big name makers, Goffriller, Montagnana, Gobetti, Seraphin, Tononi, Guarneri made all the fiddles themselves. That's along the same lines as Mr. Hargrave's suggesting that Golden Period Strads were made by Francesco and Omobono (and the other guy...) not old man Antonio.

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Vclatl,

I think that Deconet is one of the most prolific of Venetian violinmakers. He left a large group of instruments with original labels. I see him as a regular maker who progressed gradually, but whose instruments all hang together very well as a group. That said, I think he has been one of the more missidentified makers over the last 100 years.

Chris

Thank you very much.

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Vclatl,

I think that Deconet is one of the most prolific of Venetian violinmakers. He left a large group of instruments with original labels. I see him as a regular maker who progressed gradually, but whose instruments all hang together very well as a group. That said, I think he has been one of the more missidentified makers over the last 100 years.

The backwards logic of Pio, when applied to makers from across Italy not to mention makers acclaimed in his own books, would render many others as musician, non-makers. Amongst other mistakes, he does not seem to understand what Guild membership signifies.

It appears to me that Pio has started with theory and has bent the facts to fit his theory. Does he use the same measure, then, with other makers in his book? Has anyone else bothered to wade through these books?

By the same measure, I could state that Stradivari learned from Martians. Where are the facts to disprove my theory? Can anyone prove otherwise?

Chris

I certainly found Pio's books worth wading through and find them packed with documentary evidence supporting his narrative, which make perfect sense to me, including interesting (for me) references to Klotz, Stainer etc. They correlate my experience of Austrian archives. If you believe, in a fairly closed environment where (often related) 12 or 13 year olds started as garzone, and became violin/lute makers, organised as members of a guild, that a foreign adult could come and learn the Venetian style of making and become the most prolific maker, without joining the guild, then nobody needs to “disprove your theory” rather it is your perogative to disprove the copious facts presented in Pio‘s excellent books.

I am not the only one to come to this conclusion. Stewart Pollens, writes in his foreward to the Dover Edition of Doring's "The Guadagnini Family of VMs.":

Though archival research tends to answer longstanding questions about the life and work of violin makers it often raises new issues that confound the experts. For example, Stefano Pio's extensive investigation into violin-making in Venice and its environs (published in his Liuteri Sonadori Venezia 1750-1870, Treviso, 2002, and Violin and Lute Makers of Venice 1640-1760, Treviso, 2004) failed to uncover any evidence of the purported violin maker Michele Deconet's supposed apprenticeship with Domenico Montagnana, his membership in the Arte dei Marzeri (the guild to which instrument makers and musicians had to be belong in order to work legally in Venice), or that he maintained a commercial establishment for making or selling musical instruments in that city or in Padua where he is also believed to have worked. However, Pio's research did reveal Deconet to be an itinerant musician and "singer of songs in the piazza" who probably could not even read music. which was a requirement for formal membership as a musician in the Arte dei Marzeri in Venice. Nevertheless there is a sizable body of instruments, fitted with printed labels bearing his name, as well as other instruments that have been attributed to him on the basis of their stylistic similarity to the labeled ones. Such instruments have been traded in good faith as authentic Deconets for over two hundred and fifty years, yet in the wake of Pio's findings, owners and dealers of these violins now find themselves in a predicament as to how to market them.

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Vclatl,

I think that Deconet is one of the most prolific of Venetian violinmakers. He left a large group of instruments with original labels. I see him as a regular maker who progressed gradually, but whose instruments all hang together very well as a group. That said, I think he has been one of the more missidentified makers over the last 100 years.

The backwards logic of Pio, when applied to makers from across Italy not to mention makers acclaimed in his own books, would render many others as musician, non-makers. Amongst other mistakes, he does not seem to understand what Guild membership signifies.

It appears to me that Pio has started with theory and has bent the facts to fit his theory. Does he use the same measure, then, with other makers in his book? Has anyone else bothered to wade through these books?

By the same measure, I could state that Stradivari learned from Martians. Where are the facts to disprove my theory? Can anyone prove otherwise?

Chris

I have a question; if the works labeled Deconet turn out to be, variously, more likely (but not necessarily conclusively) Montagnana, Serafin, and some of the not as well known makers which the Professor has indicated as a finding in his research, how then would this affect their market value?

Is it simply a case of well known violin authorities being embarrassed by contemporary findings which contradict the party line? Or is it something else - viz., if it's not clear who made the instrument, then the monetary value (the bottom line) suffers?

Is the issue scholarship or money?

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Hey there Chris.

I know this is probably not a simple question to answer. However, would you be able to clarify which aspects of his making in your opinion are clearly Deconet ?

I realize that all of the experts who are engaging in this debate are busy people and don't really owe this forum anything so I am grateful for any of their posts.

Cheers.

r.

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I hope Chris doesn't mind my answering in his place, but I've been studying violins since I was a kid hanging around D'Atilli's house in the 70's, and I believe there's no way you can possibly describe with words, even with pictures, how to identify a maker's work. You've got to see and hold in your hand several examples of work by the same maker, then things pop out at you, and you rarely miss them after that. For instance, I can understand why someone might have seen deconet-ish things about the fiddle at Tarisio's, like the scroll which is kind of squarish with a kind of "pinched" eye, but if you look at the whole fiddle, the outline isn't what you'd expect to see in an "accepted" Deconet. The fiddle could be 18th century Venetian, though In anycase, making an opinion from a photo is pretty hopeless.

Chris Reuning has always impressed me as someone willing to look at things with a fresh perspective. If he's convinced that there is a coherent body of work that has been correctly attributed to Deconet (as well as alot of fiddles incorrectly attributed), and that's the consensus among most of the major violin dealers, so be it. We'll never know for sure in anycase. For a very long time even the world's biggest dealers believed that instruments like Casal's cello were really made by Bergonzi. Opinions and consensus can shift over time. One should always be careful when considering buying the work of "lesser" masters, and when I was a lad, Deconet was one of the lesser lights of the Venetian school. A friend of mine bought a Deconet cello as a "stepping stone" on his way to buying a Montagnana, and he never really thought his Deconet was all that good. That was back when an orchestra salary could get you a Goffriller or a Montagnana! Nowadays you need a wealthy patron to get a Vuillaume...

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I have a question; if the works labeled Deconet turn out to be, variously, more likely (but not necessarily conclusively) Montagnana, Serafin, and some of the not as well known makers which the Professor has indicated as a finding in his research, how then would this affect their market value?

Is it simply a case of well known violin authorities being embarrassed by contemporary findings which contradict the party line? Or is it something else - viz., if it's not clear who made the instrument, then the monetary value (the bottom line) suffers?

Is the issue scholarship or money?

I don't think anyone is suggesting that Deconets are the work of Seraphin or Montagnana. The potential problem here is about money. A customer might be willing to pay a couple of hundred thousand dollars for a Deconet, but who would pay 50,000 for an anonymous violin, even an 18th century Venetian? If more research and fiddle "finds" actually put some of the makers Mr. Pio has dug up "on the map," maybe we'll see more violins being "identified" as the work of Ongaro et. al. In the mean time, there's no way the owners, sellers and certifiers of Deconets could accept to have their instruments lose 75% of their value or be liable for that loss.

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Hey there Oringo. Thanks for the vicarious response from Chris. From your post I perceive that you believe the scroll of the Tarisio Deconet to be typical of the makers work. Am I right ? If so you have identified perhaps one element towards getting a closer bead on Deconet. I am only trying to learn but I thought that the scroll was the weirdest part.

For instance, I can understand why someone might have seen deconet-ish things about the fiddle at Tarisio's, like the scroll which is kind of squarish with a kind of "pinched" eye, but if you look at the whole fiddle, the outline isn't what you'd expect to see in an "accepted" Deconet.

Also, I realize that we are looking at photographs, but still there must be at least a speck of truth in a photo.

Best.

r.

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I also realize the financial implications of what it might mean to "owners, sellers and certifiers of Deconet" should he be disproved as a maker. I don't think that this is the point though of this discussion. I thought we were specifically looking at the Tarisio violin and wondering aloud. Why is this possibly a Deconet ?

Cheers.

r.

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Rick, not typical, just reminiscent because of a couple of details. When I was a teenager, I sat next to D'Attilli one day when he was examining a fiddle, and just looking at the scroll, he agreed with my assessment that it could be Milanese, but looking at the whole fiddle and after being pretty sure the scroll went with the fiddle, he concluded it was Flemish work. If you look at little details you can get trapped into thinking you've seen the same details on an authentic example. Looking at a fiddle the details, construction features and the overall impression have to fit. You just have to have seen a lot of authentic examples to be able to recognize a work, and there's no way to get around it via photos. You have to see it in 3d.

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But are you really impressed with this violin (the one in the original post)? I mean the f-holes look like they were cut with some spoon, the C-bouts don't seem very clear, the outline ... well I don't know. I can't find any beauty there. So there must be something I really miss. :(

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However, I asked a question earlier which was "Why are there no examples of "the most prolific violin maker of Venice" in Sotheby's 4 Centuries of Violin Making ?" This question was never answered. In my mind it is quite a big omission considering they have sold many Deconets during their existence as an auction house.

Thoughts ?

r.

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Searching Sotheby's web archives only shows one firmly attributed Deconet that sold before the book was published, which doesn't have any photos, at least online. There is another one, but it was sold a year after the book came out.

http://www.sothebys.com/en/search.html#keywords=deconet

In order to get it to show all the violins you have to change the date range on the left hand side of the page.

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I have searched Cozio records that list many "Deconet" offers by Sotheby's over the years. In many cases it is hard to tell whether or not they absolutely attribute the instrument to Deconet or not but regardless it seems odd to me that such an important and prolific maker should be so poorly represented by one of the world's biggest auction houses. I am simply intrigued by the lack of commitment to "by" status that anyone is willing to accredit to Deconet who at the same time is touted as an important maker commanding large prices.

I guess that what I have learned so far is that Chris Reuning and Stefano Pio are 2 shining examples of experts making a definite stand in disparate camps. I appreciate the whole-hearted commitment from both parties. As a result I find the whole matter very interesting and equally confusing.

r.

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He (Deconet) left a large group of instruments with original labels. I see him as a regular maker who progressed gradually, but whose instruments all hang together very well as a group. That said, I think he has been one of the more missidentified makers over the last 100 years. (Reuning comment)”

Problem is not in archival sources. Problem is in Deconet instruments and their expertise. It should be the time to publicly display “the large group” of Deconet instruments with genuine label sharing the same stylistic characteristics.

I have at this moment under my eyes four Deconet cellos: one (1764) is illustrated in book “Les violons: Venetian instruments, paintings & drawngs, Paris 1995 ” with Beare/ Vatelot etc. approval, the second (1783) (Sotheby’s, London 23 Nov. 1988 ) is with Wurlitzer certificate, the third one (1754) is with Hill letter ( Sotheby’s, London 5 Nov. 1996) and the fourth ( Sotheby’s, London 16 June 1998) is with Hill and Hjorth certificate. You can see all these cellos in Cozio web site also.

I would like to hear from experts, if these 4 cellos can be ascribed to the same author and if they can be considered the work of “a regular maker who progressed gradually, but whose instruments all hang together very well”. According to my opinion, they have nothing in common to share.

For a comparative analysis I suggest to create only one photo including the 4 cellos all together just to have an immediate view of their model, varnish, wood choice, etc.

Perhaps someone can tell us also if the viola Deconet “Giuranna” 1764 (book “Les violons: Venetian instruments, paintings & drawings, Paris 1995 ” ) and viola Deconet 1766 stored at Royal College in London (Strad calendar, Venetian instruments), both bearing Deconet labels, can be attributed to the same maker. I invite all to ceck these instruments.

I invite also interested to compare the violin by Giorgio Serafin illustrated in my book Liuteri and Sonadori (actually stored at Museum Correr (Venice), coming from La Pietà Institute, purchased directly from Giorgio Serafin) and the Deconet violin 1754 illustrated in the book “Les violons: Venetian instruments, paintings & drawngs, Paris 1995 ”.

I prefer to avoid any comment on instruments certified by experts participating to this forum because I feel it not proper and polite.

Amongst other mistakes, (Pio) he does not seem to understand what Venetian Guild membership signifies (Reuning comment)”

Is Mr. Reuning able to read Italian, in particular old Venetian in documents? Does he know deeply Venice history, traditions and archives ? Did he made directly research and wrote on this subject? If so, he can explain to me, a Venetian and researcher from 25 years, how were going matters for the Guild of Marzeri in my city.

Let me in the meanwhile quote the following documents regarding Venetian Guild membership and controls (relevant for Deconet case also) just to give an idea how matters were going in Venice on those years:

- In January of 1728, the custodians of the scuola, passing by the Salizada of San Lio, saw “guitars and other instruments shown in the bottega of said Tauriner”. Once established that they belonged to a “lauter who worked in his home in Salizada S. Lio” an order was issued “to appear in the morning at the scuola with the instruments all stamped (seized) in order to receive the fine as established by the superintendents of the corporation” and “a fine of five ducats must be paid to His Exellency the Bank Director of this Scuola.” The violin maker this document refers to was Andrea Comel, who had to enlist in the Arti dei Marzeri and pay the benintrada to continue his work after having quitted M. Sellas.

- Bernardo Zorzi has warned Martin Caiser, violin maker in S. Apostoli, Calle de Ca’ Dolfin, that he needs to clarify his position and register as maestro. The penalty is 25 ducats.” “Today, the above mentioned Martin Caiser has appeared to request a time extension until the 16th, and it was approved.” “November 27, 1693: The undersigned – Bernardo Zorzi – has notified the above mentioned – Martin Caiser – with an official letter that by Sunday the 29th he must have satisfied his duties.” In this case Martin Kaiser, Goffrille father in law, after quitted the Guild, tried to build instruments “in black” at home. He had to extend his permanence into the Guild to avoid a 6 month salary fine ( Vivaldi salary was 5 Ducats)!

- bottega complaint (for) m. Matteo dal lauto as in the same morning the said had the door of his shop open and was selling silk strings to a man, showing other items he had in the bench. Fined 16 Ducats because he was selling on Sunday, when shops must be close.

- was given to him the term of one month to give the name of a head master for the bottega of lauter in s.Lio ... as before the above mentioned (luthier in S. Lio) said that it was necessary to go and talk with Magno in Calle Stagneri. This is a maker that started to work and immediately Guild was asking him to clarify his position inside the workshop.

I stop here for not bother you.

It appears to me that Pio has started with theory and has bent the facts to fit his theory …. (Reuning comment)”

It appears to me instead that Reuning is benting facts when he concludes that Deconet, an unregistered (and supposed) liuter has to be considered one of the most prolific Venetian violin makers. Thus Deconet, working alone (being temporary present in Venice) was making an instrument quantity pair to those of prolific workshops (Guild registered) like that one of Giorgio Serafin or Antonio Molinari (each workshop counting 6 workers). Bravo Deconet ! An ecxellent example of stakhanovite.

“By the same measure, I could state that Stradivari learned from Martians (Reuning comment)”

Yes, with this measure we can safely state that Stradivari learned from Martians.

“ When I was a teenager, I sat next to D'Attilli one day when he was examining a fiddle, and just looking at the scroll, he agreed with my assessment that it could be Milanese, but looking at the whole fiddle and after being pretty sure the scroll went with the fiddle, he concluded it was Flemish work. If you look at little details you can get trapped into thinking you've seen the same details on an authentic example. Looking at a fiddle the details, construction features and the overall impression have to fit. You just have to have seen a lot of authentic examples to be able to recognize a work, and there's no way to get around it via photos. You have to see it in 3d. (Oringo comment)

This is an high level professional tread, I agree, but let me add that photos are useful and, for a comparative analysis, are necessary. And for macroscopically difference (like that one present in the four Deconet cellos and two violas, quoted as relevant samples of this maker) can be exhaustive.

I conclude repeating what I already knew and wrote in my first tread. It seems to me that a logical and scholastic discussion on Deconet and instruments to him attributed is not yet possible. May be in the future. In any case thanks to this forum, for having given me the possibility to illustrate my point of view that remains unchanged after the discussion. Hope everybody will reach his own conclusion on the question.

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Well, I'm not qualified to participate in this discussion, but I've seen several Deconet violins and violas over the years and they all sounded absolutely beautiful. Whomever made them must have been a great master.

Two of the instruments I saw had conflicting papers, with multiple papers. In both cases, there were attributions to Deconet and also Anselmo Bellosio. I don't know anything about Bellosio, but is their work at least similar?

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Dear Sig. Pio,

Thanks for your response to this thread. I agree with your assertion that the study of the instruments themselves is critical to understanding Deconet or any other maker. Had your book been populated with a greater selection of Deconet instruments than just the one viola that appeared in the Paris exhibition, your conclusion that Deconet instruments were made by numerous hands may have been better illustrated.

I have examined numerous Deconet instruments quite carefully and additionally cataloged a comprehensive group of his instruments that I am more than happy to share with you or anyone else. It is unfortunate that Maestronet is not the best place to share so many pictures or discuss constructional and stylistic traits in detail.

On the document side, I understand that you are relying on three main factors to support your theory.

One is that Deconet did not have the opportunity to serve a full apprenticeship. We all know that history has failed to document the training of numerous makers in Venice and elsewhere. (Andrea Amati being the most significant along with G.B. Guadagnini and A. Stradivari and scores of minor makers) It is interesting to note that Deconet came to violin making as a third profession after his stint as a soldier in Paris and then continuing with a career as a musician at least until his first marriage in 1743. The first instruments I know by Deconet date from about 1745 (when he was about 33 years old) and it is fair to say they are quite primitive and amateur. I don't think it is unlikely that Deconet had brief or informal training at best and quickly developed a recognizable style influenced (at least) by P. Guarneri, the two Serafins and Montagnana.

The second factor you cite is that he was referred to in documents as a "sonador" rather than "lauter". I would first point out that most of the sources after 1743 that you cite in your earlier post do not list any profession for Deconet at all. After that, I would ask you rhetorically if you can think of any other known violin makers (in Venice or elsewhere in 18th C Italy) where the maker's profession was not listed as Lauter?

Finally, we get to the guild. I would first state that the Venetian guild was quite different than German guilds, for instance. Deconet was not the only active Venetian violin maker who did not belong to the guild because the guild membership applied to merchants rather than craftspeople. Even so, the rules of the guild were not vigorously enforced in Venice on the whole. If your theory has merit, one must also wonder why Deconet would have been prohibited by the guild from making instruments, but the mysterious craftspeople that actually made his instruments were allowed to work unfettered.

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