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Michele Deconet


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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.

Sig. Pio provides in his last post no less than four concrete examples of how the rules WERE vigorously enforced, and how the craftspeople were NOT allowed to work unfettered

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It is unfortunate that Maestronet is not the best place to share so many pictures or discuss constructional and stylistic traits in detail.

Why? I think it might actually be the very best place.

Here at MN one may upload any number of photos, share these with one's colleagues in the dealing/restoration industry (as well as the peanut gallery of the dim and daft, which includes me and other enthusiasts), have a friendly conversation, and the whole world can watch and learn something valuable.

It is precisely this type of transparency and openness which can be the very best part of the online experience, especially when exploring facets of a realm and a subculture usually shrouded in secrecy and, as history has shown, often plagued by dodgy dealings and pseudo-scholarship with the goal of advancing an agenda.

I hope you and Professor Pio and others will continue to enlighten us about these and other issues.

Stephen

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Why? I think it might actually be the very best place.

Here at MN one may upload any number of photos, share these with one's colleagues in the dealing/restoration industry (as well as the peanut gallery of the dim and daft, which includes me and other enthusiasts), have a friendly conversation, and the whole world can watch and learn something valuable.

It is precisely this type of transparency and openness which can be the very best part of the online experience, especially when exploring facets of a realm and a subculture usually shrouded in secrecy and, as history has shown, often plagued by dodgy dealings and pseudo-scholarship with the goal of advancing an agenda.

I hope you and Professor Pio and others will continue to enlighten us about these and other issues.

Stephen

Couldn't agree more. I got off on a tangent the other day and am sorry about it. This is the best place on the net to discuss violin issues. Many of the posters are literate, experienced, and nobody's trying to sell me stuff via the forum itself :lol: .

I'm curious, anyone think putting expert presentations on complicated subjects like Deconet in the Blogs and Gallery would make them more accessible for reference?

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Let's face it, the Venetian school is not that simple. A few makers are really easy to recognize when they're working alone: P. Guarneri, S. Seraphin, C. Tononi, I'd even say Bellosio. But the others, even the "big names?" If you look at the Goffriller violins in that Paris exhibition, the red violin and the viola look very plausibly made by the same hand, but are these two examples typical of what we see attributed to Goffriller? What about the over-size violin? What about the Montagnana violins? One looks radically different from the others, the others have the feeling of different hands working to a "shop standard." (I even had the impresion of seeing Guarneri's involvement in one) How about the similarities between the Gobetti and the Deconet violins? Probably not the same hand, but seemingly made from the same model? (I don't have the book in front of me, these are memories I have of the exhibit, so forgive me if I'm mistaken) What would be great would be even more research, because the more the lesser-known makers come out of the shadows, the more precise attributions will become.

"Shooting down" accepted attributions is tricky, because in the end, it's the owners of instruments who end up losing. If you thought you had a Montagnana but today it's an Antoniazzi (I've seen two cases of this with very reputable certificates from the mid 20th c.), that's not such a big deal if the instrument has been in your family for generations as it's still worth a good bit of money. If you just paid 500k+ for it that's another story. For what it's worth, you see many more attributions like "18th c. Venetian" at auctions these days for violins that might have been attributed to Goffriller, Gobetti or Montagnana a few years back. I do believe that today's experts do work with a "consensus" approach more than ever, and that new ideas do make the rounds. The "Deconet didn't make violins" idea may one day become the accepted theory, but it will probably only take hold after we have a better idea of who did make those instruments.

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What would be great would be even more research, because the more the lesser-known makers come out of the shadows, the more precise attributions will become.

For just that reason, I can warmly recommend to anyone who does not already have them, reading/studying the two Pio books.

The brief impression I gained, is that Venice was the terminus of a sort of South-East Füssen route, (Innsbruck-Bozen-Padua-Venice), which rang a lot of bells with me, since in 2004, I took several months off, to search the archives here and study the “East Füssen route” (along the Danube). I discovered much the same system there, 12 or 13 year olds, being sent hundreds of miles to work with a relative in a large city, etc. Also where most information is to be found (applications to open a workshop, wills, house purchases, probate inventories, marriages, christening of children, legal disputes, appointment of guardians for an orphan…..)

Pio’s narrative is almost entirely based on such documentary evidence. Most revealing are the marriage documents, where the witnesses have to dictate to the notary (for instance) I am so and so, and have worked for x for x years, and know the groom since he was about 7 years old when I worked in the shop of x, with his father etc. (to testify that the groom was eligible to get married, i.e. wasn’t already married elsewhere), and who the groom was. Also the sources I mention above.

I was astonished at the immense amount of such documentary evidence Pio has uncovered, since I know from personal experience how much work that is. It allows one to form an unbelievably convincing picture of the old Venetian lute and violin making community. “Even more” research seems to me neither necessary nor of much use, so long people are not prepared to even read or glean conclusions from it, far less let it influence "more precise attributions", and outrageously suggest he is bending facts to support some pre-conceived agenda.

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For just that reason, I can warmly recommend to anyone who does not already have them, reading/studying the two Pio books.

The brief impression I gained, is that Venice was the terminus of a sort of South-East Füssen route, (Innsbruck-Bozen-Padua-Venice), which rang a lot of bells with me, since in 2004, I took several months off, to search the archives here and study the “East Füssen route” (along the Danube). I discovered much the same system there, 12 or 13 year olds, being sent hundreds of miles to work with a relative in a large city, etc. Also where most information is to be found (applications to open a workshop, wills, house purchases, probate inventories, marriages, christening of children, legal disputes, appointment of guardians for an orphan…..)

Pio’s narrative is almost entirely based on such documentary evidence. Most revealing are the marriage documents, where the witnesses have to dictate to the notary (for instance) I am so and so, and have worked for x for x years, and know the groom since he was about 7 years old when I worked in the shop of x, with his father etc. (to testify that the groom was eligible to get married, i.e. wasn’t already married elsewhere), and who the groom was. Also the sources I mention above.

I was astonished at the immense amount of such documentary evidence Pio has uncovered, since I know from personal experience how much work that is. It allows one to form an unbelievably convincing picture of the old Venetian lute and violin making community. “Even more” research seems to me neither necessary nor of much use, so long people are not prepared to even read or glean conclusions from it, far less let it influence "more precise attributions", and outrageously suggest he is bending facts to support some pre-conceived agenda.

Thank you Mr. Saunders

Yes, I confirm and I agree on what you wrote. By the way, my last book shows evidence that the South-East Füssen route, (Innsbruck-Bozen-Padua-Venice) was already a fact at the beginning of XVI century. Not all know that at the age of Andrea Amati in Venice there were at least 7 makers of bow instruments and round 140 instrument makers mainly coming from places mantioned by you.

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Jacob,

I don't claim to be a scholar of these archives, but I have spent some weeks with my nose in these books assisting some intelligent people who have made a serious study of the subject. In that context, I am very aware of numerous examples in Pio's books where sources are cherry picked to support his theories. Right in front of our noses, we see an example that you cited in your earlier posting:

Jacob wrote: Sig. Pio provides in his last post no less than four concrete examples of how the rules WERE vigorously enforced, and how the craftspeople were NOT allowed to work unfettered.

Pio certainly has enough familiarity with these archives to realize that the guild applied mainly to merchants rather than craftspeople and that the guild was lax in enforcing it's rules. Again, I caution you not to apply the German guild standard to Venice. Just as Pio can cite these few examples of the guild enforcing a rule could he point out many more examples when the opposite was true.

That a person at your level of experience and intelligence would accept some of Pio's theories based on the research he presents, only underlines the danger that can come from such a twisted presentation. Not to flatter you too much, but I have always considered your posts to be enlightened and informed. :)

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Pio certainly has enough familiarity with these archives to realize that the guild applied mainly to merchants rather than craftspeople and that the guild was lax in enforcing it's rules.

According to Pio (emphasis mine):

- 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.

Are you asserting Comel was a merchant and not a craftsman?

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Why? I think it might actually be the very best place.

Stephen;

I think what Chris is saying is that this venue may not be the best place to share the vast number of detailed photographs contained in his archives... and he's probably correct. While it might be interesting to the group, the amount of effort required to prepare and upload would be a serious commitment. He's offered to share the complete information, just not in this venue... and I don't think we (as a group) are "entitled" to ask more of him.

I don't think he's suggesting that information would be withheld from the forum, BTW. Just that it will not be shared in overwhelming volume.

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Stephen;

He's offered to share the complete information, just not in this venue... and I don't think we (as a group) are "entitled" to ask more of him.

I don't think he's suggesting that information would be withheld from the forum, BTW. Just that it will not be shared in overwhelming volume.

Plus, some people, Mr. Reuning included, actually have to make a living.

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“ Pio certainly has enough familiarity with these archives to realize that the guild applied mainly to merchants rather than craftspeople and that the guild was lax in enforcing it's rules. (Reuning comment)

This is totally wrong. In Venice did not exist merchants that were not violin/instrument makers also. If you are thinking to Matteo Sellas, he was a liuter too as well as a merchant.

“ as Pio can cite these few examples of the guild enforcing a rule could he point out many more examples when the opposite was true. (Reuning comment)

Please cite them because I don’t know them.

The second factor you (Pio) cite is that he (Deconet) 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. (Reuning comment)”

1745 : “Michiel Deconetti canta canzon in Piazza” (Michele Deconet street singer).

1764, 3 Febbraio: “Michiel Deconet suonator di violino ”.

1771, 14 Febbraio: “Michele de Conetti, suona il violino”.

1780, 26 Febbraio, Girolamo Zanchi, cameriere: “ saranno quindici anni che incominciai a praticare alla Bragora, e che li conosco ( Michele Deconet e Maria) andando frequentemente dal detto Michiel a studiar di violino in casa del quale praticò da sempre detta Maria…” (It is 15 years I started to be acquainted to the Bragora (Deconet home) and I know them (Michele Deconet and his wife) because I was going very often to the said Michele to study the violin……)

For the 2 other questions raised by Mr. Reuning in his tread #101 it is sufficient to read what I have already written in previous treads #32, # 51, # 67 and #99.

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Let's face it, the Venetian school is not that simple. A few makers are really easy to recognize when they're working alone: P. Guarneri, S. Seraphin, C. Tononi, I'd even say Bellosio. But the others, even the "big names?" If you look at the Goffriller violins in that Paris exhibition, the red violin and the viola look very plausibly made by the same hand, but are these two examples typical of what we see attributed to Goffriller? What about the over-size violin? What about the Montagnana violins? One looks radically different from the others, the others have the feeling of different hands working to a "shop standard." (I even had the impresion of seeing Guarneri's involvement in one) How about the similarities between the Gobetti and the Deconet violins? Probably not the same hand, but seemingly made from the same model? (I don't have the book in front of me, these are memories I have of the exhibit, so forgive me if I'm mistaken) What would be great would be even more research, because the more the lesser-known makers come out of the shadows, the more precise attributions will become.

"Shooting down" accepted attributions is tricky, because in the end, it's the owners of instruments who end up losing. If you thought you had a Montagnana but today it's an Antoniazzi (I've seen two cases of this with very reputable certificates from the mid 20th c.), that's not such a big deal if the instrument has been in your family for generations as it's still worth a good bit of money. If you just paid 500k+ for it that's another story. For what it's worth, you see many more attributions like "18th c. Venetian" at auctions these days for violins that might have been attributed to Goffriller, Gobetti or Montagnana a few years back. I do believe that today's experts do work with a "consensus" approach more than ever, and that new ideas do make the rounds. The "Deconet didn't make violins" idea may one day become the accepted theory, but it will probably only take hold after we have a better idea of who did make those instruments.

Sir

Thank you I agree with you.

Let me add two notes.

1) If you are alluding to Gregorio Antoniazzi maker of violins in Colle, Vicenza I have to say that this is the typical example of an author whose existence is based only on labels. It is dangerous.

I have been in Colle , Vicenza, but on there is (and was) only wood and one factory with some cows ( check with Google earth if you like). I suppose that a maker on 18th century was living only if selling instruments. Why Gregorio Antoniazzi should have lived and made violins in Colle, a place far from any potential customers is a mistery for me.

I hope you will not rebut my note based on simple logic as a “danger that can come from such a twisted presentation” as stated by Reuning on my work.

It seems to me as the same approach and words used by the Holy Inquisition and Cardinale Bellarmino to condemn the theory of Galileo.

2) Not necessarily “Deconet instruments” must have a less value. Just an example, the man that purchased the Deconet cello (Sotheby 16 June 1998) is very lucky, because, according to my opinion is a cello made in Montagnana workshop where the presence of Ongarato can explain differences existing in this instrument from the usual model of Montagnana. Recently I have seen an other similar cello in Christofer London hands.

I am looking at one set of violins made by Guarneri and Tononi when working togheter in Sellas shop. Are their value less than a Deconet ? I don’t think.

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Regardless of who made Deconet labelled instruments ,i dont know where this notion of Guilds only generally applying to merchants comes from. About the only working people in Venice who werent in Guilds were probably domestic servants. There were 143 Guilds in Venice in 1773 ,its wasnt until early 19th century that these Guilds began to lose there grip. Reforms to Guilds were proposed several times in the 18th century but more or less fell on deaf ears.

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Jacob,

I don't claim to be a scholar of these archives, but I have spent some weeks with my nose in these books assisting some intelligent people who have made a serious study of the subject. In that context, I am very aware of numerous examples in Pio's books where sources are cherry picked to support his theories. Right in front of our noses, we see an example that you cited in your earlier posting:

Jacob wrote: Sig. Pio provides in his last post no less than four concrete examples of how the rules WERE vigorously enforced, and how the craftspeople were NOT allowed to work unfettered.

Pio certainly has enough familiarity with these archives to realize that the guild applied mainly to merchants rather than craftspeople and that the guild was lax in enforcing it's rules. Again, I caution you not to apply the German guild standard to Venice. Just as Pio can cite these few examples of the guild enforcing a rule could he point out many more examples when the opposite was true.

That a person at your level of experience and intelligence would accept some of Pio's theories based on the research he presents, only underlines the danger that can come from such a twisted presentation. Not to flatter you too much, but I have always considered your posts to be enlightened and informed. :)

When discussing such things, people often get confused between the functions of a guild and that of a municipal, or State government. I think it better we spare our self that now. You have emphasized the difference between German (from an American, I can take it that includes Austrian?) and a Venetian Guild (resp. municipal administration) twice now. I am afraid that I am not aware of any significant differences. Vienna and Venice are not that far apart and were, back then (from a violin making view) both dominated by Füssen makers, who would be partly related and the system was similar. I would be interested to learn quite what “German guild standard” you caution me not to get confused with is. That the rules WERE vigorously enforced, and how the craftspeople were NOT allowed to work unfettered” is the case, both here and there.

As I found when searching archives for violin maker relevant information, primarily in the above mentioned documents (applications to open a workshop, wills, house purchases, probate inventories, marriages, christening of children, legal disputes, appointment of guardians for an orphan…..), it is imperative to edit, should one wish to finish with a readable narrative. That is how one writes history. It is, (here in Austria at least) necessary, since a large part is (for us irrelevant) incessant praising the holy Virgin Mary and asking her to spare ones soul etc. etc. To call that cherry-picking or a twisted presentation is nonsense, and would be a ground to apologize to Mr. Pio.

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I want to add an interesting and fascinating detail on Deconet life drawn from a document stored in Venice Archivio Patriarcale:

“ Detta mia figlia, da che nacque eccettuato dall’anno quarto di sua età sino al settimo CHE FU DA ME CONDOTTA LONTANA DA QUESTA CITTA’, dimorò in Venezia e nella mia propria abitazione.” (This said my daughter, from her birth (1753) was living in Venice and in my own home except than the period covering her fourth to seventh year of age (1757 to 1761) when she WAS TAKEN FROM ME FAR FROM THIS CITY).

Please consider that in other documents related to Deconet and his entourage, these people (composed by players, singers, jugglers and astrologers) were often travelling with caravans and moving in the cities of North Italy (including Milano, Genova, Alessandria, Brescia, Bergamo, Treviso, Padova and Verona). Although not a definitive proof of his absence from Venice, this document poses some concerns on his permanent presence in the city on those years.

Even the birth certificate of a Deconet son (Antonio, if I well remember) is missing in the Bragora parish records (all the other Deconet sons, born before and after Antonio, are instead registered) thus proving he was born elsewhere with any probability during one of Deconet several trips.

Reuning writes about “a comprehensive group of his instruments that I am more than happy to share with you” so, to be polite, I will share with him the new infos on Deconet (let me check I should have already something that has been submerged in the following years by my successive research on Venetian makers of XVI century).

Anyway I am happy for Reuning opening. When in 2001- 2004 I asked to several dealers to take part to my research (or at least to help me with photos of representative Venetian instruments), they did not replay or refused.

Unfortunately even my last book based on ca. 1000 Venetian documents is dangerous. I contest the birth of the viola da gamba in Spain as also several other accepted topics on violin birth. By the way, (this is for Saunders) it seems that a Venetian/German (Abramo Tieffenbrucker) was also dealing in France with Gasparo da Salò instruments.

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I am always happy to share information with anyone who is truly interested, but posting pictures of an entire archive on maestronet is pretty much out of the question. I will try to figure out how to resize some pictures and upload them when I have some time to illustrate some characteristics I will outline here. Although I have pictures of nearly 30 Deconet violins, 6 violas, and 6 cellos, I also don't have permission to distribute many of them.

The violins have some variety of model, but all share a similar rounded shape to the upper and lower bouts. The c-bouts also share a common shape. It seems that most have pins well set in at the ends of the back. The soundholes are usually not well cut and wander up and down the front. Some are high, some are low, and some are set in the standard position. They also vary in length but have a similar idea and holes that are not too circular and have Venetian style tapered wings, normally with little or no fluting.

There are certainly some feeble, narrow violins that recall those with a similar model by S Serafin (the latter usually from birdseye maple).

The edge work seem often quite rounded over and undefined with purfling having thick whites. I have also seen some better examples that have more defined edgework with a nice crest.

The corners are tapered, or pointed in the Venetian manner with usually blunt purfling mitres coming up the middle.

The heads are quite distinctive and come in a couple patterns all with sort of an awkward shape to the pegbox (from the side view). One normally sees an extra curved gouge imprint as an extension of the eye.

5 of the violas are near twins in model with some variation in soundholes (the Boris Kroyt viola has a manuscript label dating it to September 1780) and the Royal Academy viola follows more closely some of the heavy edged violins.

4 of the cellos are absolute twins in model and two have a variation in model but the same features of workmanship.

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I should add two more categories:

arching. Some violins are deeply channeled with rather peaked arching and some have a very high arch. Other violins have quite a good medium-flat arch with moderate channelling. These sound often extremely well.

varnish. I have seen many examples with varnish as good as a Montagnana or Peter Guarneri.

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Sig. Pio provides in his last post no less than four concrete examples of how the rules WERE vigorously enforced, and how the craftspeople were NOT allowed to work unfettered

Jacob, to me that there has been punishment by the guild, only proves that even should it be true that there were strong regulations at a certain times, there were makers out there building new instruments, who were not members of the guild. The punishment of a few does not mean that the rules were rigorously enforced, it only proves there were makers not abiding the rules.

I would like to make a further assumption. To get punished, there needs to be someone actually reporting wrongdoing to the guild, and it is a personal step to report someone. One might not want to report a friend or ally. However, if Deconet really was such a prolific dealer as stated in this thread, it means he has probably also sold instruments of others makers, and it must have indeed been in nobody's interest in Venice to unfriend him and loose a valuable sales agent.

To me, the proof of wheather Deconet was a maker/dealer/musician or just a dealer/musician does not lie in the archives, it lies in the body of surviving instruments. In my opinion, there are less than a dozen or so experts in the world who have seen enough instruments by Deconet and have an archive big enough to make any claims about consistency in the production of his instrument, including Mr Reuning. I am also very much looking forward to see Mr Beare's book published.

I would like to make an example of how the mistake of not recognizing a consistent body of work has happening before:

Here a quote from William Henleys book 'Universal dictionary of violin and bow makers' dividing G.B. Guadagini into two authors:

'Guadagnini, Joannes Baptista (1). V.M.

Italian christian names are Giovanni Battista. Born at Piacenza, 1683 Died 1770. Brother of Lorenzo.

Some recent writers assert that there were not two individual makers bearing the names of J.B., and that this mistake has arisen through the one individual having frequently changed his abode. [...] We think it is safer to believe the older writers, [...] as to affix the conclusive sign that the workmanship was not executed by the one man [...]

Guadagnini, Johannes Baptista (2)

Italian christian name 'Giambattista' Born at Cremona 1711. Died 1786. Son and pupil of Lorenzo

[...]'

I do believe nowadays nobody would suggest anymore that there were two G.B. Guadagninis?

I do not believe that anyone could ever convince Mr Pio to change his mind, as he has already committed so much effort to publicize his opinion. I am however curious to see how this topic continues, and about further publications.

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>>“ Pio certainly has enough familiarity with these archives to realize that the guild applied mainly to merchants rather than craftspeople and that the guild was lax in enforcing it's rules.[/i] (Reuning comment)

This is totally wrong. In Venice did not exist merchants that were not violin/instrument makers also. If you are thinking to Matteo Sellas, he was a liuter too as well as a merchant.>>

But is the opposite true? I understand your assertion that merchants must be makers, but must all makers be guild members? Do you mean to say that there were no other known Venetian violin makers who did not belong to the guild. Really?

>>“ as Pio can cite these few examples of the guild enforcing a rule could he point out many more examples when the opposite was true. (Reuning comment)

Please cite them because I don’t know them.>>

I will do this for you.

>>“ The second factor you (Pio) cite is that he (Deconet) 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. (Reuning comment)”>>

Many of those citations mentioned in your post #39 state no profession, correct? Another question you could please answer: can you think of any other known Venetian instrument makers from this period who consistently were referred to in documents as anything other than "lauter"?

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Jacob, to me that there has been punishment by the guild, only proves that even should it be true that there were strong regulations at a certain times, there were makers out there building new instruments, who were not members of the guild. The punishment of a few does not mean that the rules were rigorously enforced, it only proves there were makers not abiding the rules.

I would like to make a further assumption. To get punished, there needs to be someone actually reporting wrongdoing to the guild, and it is a personal step to report someone. One might not want to report a friend or ally. However, if Deconet really was such a prolific dealer as stated in this thread, it means he has probably also sold instruments of others makers, and it must have indeed been in nobody's interest in Venice to unfriend him and loose a valuable sales agent.

To me, the proof of wheather Deconet was a maker/dealer/musician or just a dealer/musician does not lie in the archives, it lies in the body of surviving instruments. In my opinion, there are less than a dozen or so experts in the world who have seen enough instruments by Deconet and have an archive big enough to make any claims about consistency in the production of his instrument, including Mr Reuning. I am also very much looking forward to see Mr Beare's book published.

I would like to make an example of how the mistake of not recognizing a consistent body of work has happening before:

Here a quote from William Henleys book 'Universal dictionary of violin and bow makers' dividing G.B. Guadagini into two authors:

'Guadagnini, Joannes Baptista (1). V.M.

Italian christian names are Giovanni Battista. Born at Piacenza, 1683 Died 1770. Brother of Lorenzo.

Some recent writers assert that there were not two individual makers bearing the names of J.B., and that this mistake has arisen through the one individual having frequently changed his abode. [...] We think it is safer to believe the older writers, [...] as to affix the conclusive sign that the workmanship was not executed by the one man [...]

Guadagnini, Johannes Baptista (2)

Italian christian name 'Giambattista' Born at Cremona 1711. Died 1786. Son and pupil of Lorenzo

[...]'

I do believe nowadays nobody would suggest anymore that there were two G.B. Guadagninis?

I do not believe that anyone could ever convince Mr Pio to change his mind, as he has already committed so much effort to publicize his opinion. I am however curious to see how this topic continues, and about further publications.

I’m afraid the example you cite (Henley) largely disproves what you wish to say. One should know that Henley did no archival research; rather his dictionary is a sloppy, quite useless translation of Lütgendorff, where Henley occasionally added his (often disgracefully anti-German) invective, to feign having even seen a single instrument from the maker at issue.

I admire Lütgendorff, for all his mistakes, because he was the one who actually made the effort to compile a dictionary. Even more remarkable was that he did this as a pastime, his day job being Painter, Sculptor and Art Historian. He largely compiled this dictionary, by writing to people and asking. In some places like Prague, he was lucky and found a correspondent who had conducted archival research (Homolka), or in Vienna (Jaura). In other places he was less lucky. Dividing Guadagnini into two people was one of his more famous mistakes (which didn’t stop Henley copying it) and was the reason Dietmar Machold always cited for not having to bother reading it at all.

The question of archival research/judging a body of work:

Since my area of research wasn’t Venice, I would like to cite an example from an area that I know about:

Magnus Anton Fichtl was a vm in Krems, 50 miles upstream from Vienna on the Danube. Lütgendorff writes (Henley/Jalovec copy) that he was from Füssen or Mittenwald, came to Krems in 1770 and married a Joiners Daughter and became well off. I found, in the archive, His marriage contract, details of his house purchase, his application to run a vm business from his house, and much more. The was no violin makers guild in Krems, only in Vienna, this didn’t make much difference though, since the municipal town council and the State Government played a similar role.

He wrote (or dictated) in an application himself to the State government that he was born in Lechbruch, and came to Vienna as a 13 year old to be apprenticed to Martin Mathias Fichtl there, where he learnt his trade and passed all qualifications. Since he bought his house from a Guilder called Möstl, he needed his house “Raderziert” which beggars translation. Briefly, it wasn’t enough to own a house, each trade was dedicated to a certain house, and if one whished to pursue that trade, one needed to own the corresponding house, which normally occurred by marrying a widow or daughter. Since there was no violin maker in Krems, the town council had to request permission of the state government to be able to dedicate this house (Radizieren) to the violin making trade. Further his wife wasn’t the daughter of a Joiner, but of a Fishmonger, who had a monopoly on the Fish trade in Krems. Rather than passing away wealthy, his wife’s dowry of 500 Gulden had diminished to under 200 Gulden by the time he died (of Tuberculosis) & after the reforms of Joseph II (Dissolution of the Monasteries) had robbed him of his market. I could go on all day with further details.

Any violin maker who had been through this procedure would obviously complain to the town council if anybody tried to ply the trade without registering, as happed here with a vm. from Bohemia, called Hegner.

Before I found this document, I was convinced that Fichtl had been a journeyman in the workshop of Leidolff, by comparing “body of Work”, and to my eternal embarrassment even published as much in an Article “Ready for Mass” in the Strad Magazine some 10 or 15 years ago.

In short, Archival research provides FACTS, after which the violins, in my experience fall into place, whereas judging by “body of work” alone, is GUESSING. Once one has established the Facts from archival research, one can guess infinitely better, by the way

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I think that there is considerable confusion about the nature of guilds, and I think that historians of commerce and trade more generally also have a difficulty in understanding how these were different in the 16th-18th century from how they are after this point. Although guilds go back to the medieval times, there is a pan-European movement towards reform of the guilds around the 1550s-60s, and it is from this moment that we seem to derive most of our understanding. However, Guilds work not only for the protection of trade, but as political representation within the government of a city by a mayor who would be elected through the guilds. Herein lies a profound problem for minority trades such as musical instrument making, since in many cases the entire trade collectively wouldn't amount to a single votes worth of city merchants.

Fussen, which established a lute makers guild in 1562, was probably an exception as a small city with a large instrument making population. In Antwerp, famous for making harpsichords, these were admitted into the Guild of St Lukes after 1557, the guild of artists. In London there was no Instrument makers guild, instrument makers didn't even belong to the Musicians guild, and appear to have worked under a series of Royal patents and exemptions during the Tudor times before being admitted into the Fletcher's (arrow-makers) Company - a guild with historic power that was now waning, after James I came to the throne. The logic seems to have been that admitting minority trades worthy of the City of London, worked in the interests of the corporation of London, and allowed a historically important guild to retain enough strength within the Corporation to carry out its duties subject to the Statute of Artificers.

Venice in the late-16th and early 17th-century had a vast instrument making industry. Lute making was certainly producing thousands of instruments per year, the Bassanos (who remained in Venice) were exporting woodwind instruments around Europe, Venetian harpsichords likewise turn up all over the continent, whilst some stringed instruments made in London and Nurnberg particularly, suggest very strong influences from imported Venetian work. Venetian guitars, once more, appear everywhere. However, this seems to be an entirely different state of affairs from Venetian instrument making in the eighteenth-century, and particularly Venetian instrument making in Deconet's time, where the cities population of violin makers seems to have been down to a trickle. If the instrument making guild was so tiny within the city administration, what power did it have to enforce its patch? Was it a toothless, dying guild? At the same time, how much of a 1760s violin makers life was spent making, and how much retailing and/or selling older instruments? What percentage of his overall trade was the concern of the instrument makers guild (presuming that second-hand sales, string sales, any other form of retail operation or musicianship would have been out of the remit of the guild) Deconet may have broken every law, but in these circumstances, would it have been in the public interest to take him to court?

These are all questions. What is certainly true is that we can't apply a 16/17th century picture of the guild system to the 18th century, and we certainly can't apply a text-book reading of how large and powerful guilds work and expect it to apply to minority trades. The most remarkable case in point is Cremona that had, so far as we are aware, no formal guild, and yet sustained a guild-like control on its product - that's another mystery altogether.

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