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Michele Deconet


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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.

Dear Ben,

I cannot discuss 16th C guilds with you, since I have no knowledge of that period. However, the situation I was describing in my previous post (#123) was the 18th C: to be exact the period 1770/1780. Having spent months sifting through the original documents, I fail to see the mystery. In a town with an insufficient number of violin makers, this function was assumed by the Municipal Authorities resp. State Government, who quite ruthlessly hindered any non-approved instrument making (and every other trade likewise). In cities with enough makers, one should remember that it’s “Guild” consisted of the constituent members, whose interest it was to have no illicit competition. I realize this is difficult for people to grasp, who have been socialized in a country where any Tom, Dick or Harry can (and does) call himself “Fine Violins”. This system was first abolished here in the mid 19th. C by Metternich and transpired to be a measure so unpopular, that it was re-introduced several years later. Indeed even in the mid-1980s I had to take a dreadfully time consuming “Meisterprüfung” in order to be allowed to establish my own workshop.

Before anyone tells me not to confuse Venice and Vienna, I should point out that they are not on different continents, and their systems seems very similar, as well as that the personal in both places were largely from Füssen . Venice was even Austrian from 1797 (Treaty of Campo Formio) until they ceded it to the new Kingdom of Italy in 1866

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Mr. Pio,

I notice that your citations in post # 99 only refers to 17th C makers (Kaiser) or early, obscure makers (Comel). Can you provide examples of strict guild rules enforcement during the active period of Venetian violin making involving well recognized makers such as Tononi, Gobetti, Montagnana, either Serafin, F Gofriller, Bellosio, Deconet, Busan, Cerin, Guarneri?

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Jacob, I am sorry if you felt that this was directed towards you. I wrote with a series of posts in this thread in mind. However, whilst I agree that all European guild systems worked on a common model, the manner in which they developed over time differs from country to country. In Germany, a relic of the guild system seems to still impact such trades as violin making, but in England the guilds were on their way by the middle of the seventeenth-century, even though the institutions exist in a much diminished form even today. With all of this in mind, we cannot take it for granted that precedents from the late seventeenth-century have any relevance to the mid-eighteenth-century.

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I am ready to continue a scholarly discussion on Deconet with two pre-conditions:

a) Respect of counterpart position

I disagree with Reuning statements on Deconet but I have no difficulty in saying that his expertise is excellent and the instruments he is selling are wonderful and valuable.

I think also that the majority of the instruments currently attributed to Deconet and sold by actual experts would be not affected in their value and price even if they would be attributed to different Venetian violin makers: their quality does not change. In some case I think that some of them would have an increase in value also. I already mentioned as an example the Deconet cello sold at Sotheby’ auction (London 16 June 1998) that, according to my opinion should be attributed to Montagnana workshop where differences from the usual work of Montagnana can be explained with the participation of a worker (like Ongarato could be). I don’t see any risk for market or dealers reputation in changing attributions at the light of new discoveries. Just remember that Bergonzi/ Goffriller cellos (and dealers selling them) were not affected in their value/reputation when attribution changed.

A further example I want to cite is the Deconet viola illustrated in book “Les violons: Venetian instruments, paintings & drawngs, Paris 1995 ” as also in my book ”Liuteri and Sonadori, Venice 1750 -1870”.

Violas of Pietro Guarneri of Venice are unknown, but nobody can state he never made some, perhaps following a model with little differences from that one used for his violins. I am personally taking in consideration (this is speculation) that an attribution to Pietro Guarneri of this viola would be not a scandal or a contradiction.

This said, I request for my work and person the same respect I give to the others. Deconet is only on of the several topic I touched writing a full history of string makers in Venice that cover a period starting from 1490 to 1870.

Classify the results of my work lasted 15 years, "cherries" or say that I skew the facts to substantiate preconceived theories is outrageous and ridiculous. Above all it is not clear what would be my interest in doing so as it'd become much richer in doing other things that in writing these books. Surely they are not immune to mistakes, but discredit them in their entirety is certainly no a merit for those who move this radical criticisms.

B) Debate

each party must answer ALL the questions raised by the antagonist and not just some of them.

Let’s go on.

1) Reuning in one his previous tread was saying: “ 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.” My replay was that he was wrong as in Venice did not exist merchants that were not violin/instrument makers also.

I see now he is completely changing his claim, asking me if there were in Venice violin makers not registered to the Guild.

My answer is: surely yes. To these violin makers was NOT allowed in any case to sell directly their instruments. They had to pass through a registered “bottega di liuter”. I cite the case of Santo Serafin (who, after he quitted the Guild, continued selling his instruments through the workshop of his nephew George Serafin ), Domenico Busan (selling through Ongaro) and Gobetti (selling through Matteo Sellas).

For ALL these makers there is documental evidence they were also violin makers or, at least, that they were building violins. I am sorry to say that for Deconet this evidence does not exist.

Santo Serafin had (before quitting the Guild) his famous workshop. Busan also had for a while a liuter workshop in Calle Dolfin (where was previously operative Goffriller). Gobbetti was a shoe maker but a maker of violins also (sold with any probability by Matteo Sellas). Is this the only violin maker doing also a different job among the 250 Venetian liuteri I have catalogued. The difference between Gobbetti and Deconet is evident and substantial: for the first WE HAVE documental evidence he was making violins, for the second no one record is giving evidence he was violin maker.

May be Reuning does not know that the records of Ospedale della Pietà (where Vivaldi was teaching violin to the Putte (girls)) are referring of one of Putte violin as made by the calegher (the cobbler) thus giving us evidence Gobbetti was making violins !

Even the Montagnana inventory, cites a violino del calegher giving further evidence that Gobbetti was doing violins also.

I want to remember that

- Gobbetti production is very low (only 30/40 violins, no violas no cellos) while Deconet is considered the most prolific maker after about 1750.

- Gobbetti was always present in Venice while Deconet was often outside of Venice.

As I already told, there are quite 25/30 violin makers contemporary of Deconet whose work is totally unknown: how to explain the absence on labels related to them while we a have a proliferation of labelled Deconet instruments (made also in the period in which it is certified he was outside of Venice) is a mistery that Reuning should explain to me. If a label is a proof of the existence of a maker, then what do to with all the makers of which we have no labels comproving their activity?

On this basis I was/am obliged to conclude what previously said:

a) Deconet was a vagrant violin player and singer for all his life, very often living outside of Venice (vagrant player) thus excluding the possibility of a constant activity as violin maker (if any).

B) Deconet arrived in Venice when was an adult, consequently nobody would have taken him as workshop apprentice, teaching him the art of violin making according the Venetian style.

c) Pietro Guarneri did not have apprentices or pupils in his workshop, as it is evidenced by the several registrations of the “Marzeri” guild and his tax records. Deconet was not an his apprentice.

d) Deconet did not have an his workshop, he was not registered to the guild, he did not pay taxes as violin maker and consequently he was not in the position of selling instruments (made by him or others) in Venice.

e) Deconet (supposing for a moment he was a maker) was not in the position to compete with large and well organized Venetian workshops like that one of Giorgio Serafin. Consequently Deconet was not “ the most prolific Venetian maker after about 1750” as stated by Charles Beare in Grove dictionary.

f) It was impossible to make instruments secretly for a so long time (even for a short time) without to be discovered and punished by the Venetian authority. Control was strict and made not only by the authority and/or the Guild officers but mainly from the “regular” taxed violin makers that would not have accepted a competitor selling instruments “in black”.

g) All Deconet family members were players and not makers.

PS: I no remember who wrote in the forum, but please note that controls were made by the Guild autonomously and not only on demand of members.

2) A discussion of Deconet stylistic details (Reuning details Deconet list) without correlating them and supporting them with photographs is totally unuseful, partly because the same details are shared by the same Venetian school in general.

In other artistic fields (think of the painting) this would not be tolerated. I feel much more useful to mention published instruments so that can they can be seen and judged by everybody. In my previous comment I mentioned 8 Deconet instruments: “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”.

3) on the interesting comment by Ben Hebbert I have to say that I don’t agree with him where he is saying that for Venetian Guild (or better Corporazioni di Arti e Mestieri) we can't apply a 16/17th century picture of the guild system to the 18th century

I have passed ALL the book of Marzeri Guild from the beginning 1540 (before no records) and I have to say that little if nothing changed inside them during the time.

Some of Marzeri books are covering centuries records in an interrupt chain through the time. It would be helpful if Mr. Hebbert can be more precise on which rules, observances, organi, magistrature e controlli were changing from XVI to XVIII century in Venice. ( By the way I wish to inform him that Ambrogio Lupo, the famous violinist at Tudor court was previously a Venetian member of a violoni group at Scuola Grande di San Marco in Venice and that the Bassano’s were in England too wher they were making bowed instruments also.) .It’s like many small Republics” said Antonio Milledonne, Secretary of the Consiglio dei Dieci, who thus described the Schools of Arts and Crafts of Venice – or Corporations – in his Reasoning of two gentleman, one Roman and one Venetian, on the government of the Republic of Venice done on January 15th 1580, Venetian calendar. What he wrote was still actual and observed at the end of 18th century. Venetian corporations were suppressed (26 June 1806) with the arrival of Napoleon because unable to renew themselves (it means did never changed and this was the cause of their death). Il Gastaldo, I Guardiani, le Luminarie, I Capitoli, la Tassa di taglione, il Garzonato, la tassa di benintrada etc all remained unchanged and inalterate during the centuries. And the strict controls remained unchanged and same over the centuries.

The deterioration of the guild system in Venice was primarily caused by the general political crisis of the times (end 18th century), the advancement of free trade, continuous innovations such as the increase of new products and goods, and a proliferation of new professional and manufacturing activities which posed new difficulties to catalogue goods which could be not exclusive monopoly of any one guild.

To negate the authority of the many established guilds meant to question the socio-political functions and the whole government system of the Ventian State. The guilds had for a long time not only ensured economic prosperity but also the practical and moral education of the Venetian population. “The father of a poor family who cannot educate nor pay for his children’s education, can entrust his child as garzone to a capomistro who commits himself with his responsibility and with his duty to educate him for three, four or five years…”

(This is, by the way, one of the reasons why nobody would have taken Deconet as an apprentice when adult).

As an other enlight example I cite you also the following :

On November 7, 1794, in the church of San Silvestro, 90 players of the arte decided (50 against 40) to sue Onorato Viganò, the manager of the La Fenice Theater - who was also a famous choreographer and dancer – because of his hiring of foreign musicians who were not members of the guild. The law suit began with the certainty of a victory and of a money settlement, which would benefit all guild members since Viganò’s behavior constituted a clear attack to all. The presence and use of foreign players was simply not admissible by law.

4) Can you provide examples of strict guild rules enforcement during the active period of Venetian violin making involving well recognized makers such as Tononi, Gobetti, Montagnana, either Serafin, F Gofriller, Bellosio, Deconet, Busan, Cerin, Guarneri? (Reuning comment). Reuning, really, it is too long, just read my books where for every maker you ask for are referred several samples of Guild enforcements for missing tax payments as also for different infringements made by the corporation against them. Practically quite all makers were going steadily to cry into the Corporation offices in Corte dell’Ancillotto (near the S. Zulian church) for a problem due to Guild controls and taxation (consequent to controls of course).

Sorry I am very tired now. I would have several more question to pose on Deconet. May be next time. Here in Venice is night and one gondola is passing under my window. They have a candel switched on. Very romantic. After all Venice never change and I am happy to be here .

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>>1) Reuning in one his previous tread was saying: “ 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.” My replay was that he was wrong as in Venice did not exist merchants that were not violin/instrument makers also.

I see now he is completely changing his claim, asking me if there were in Venice violin makers not registered to the Guild.

My answer is: surely yes. To these violin makers was NOT allowed in any case to sell directly their instruments. They had to pass through a registered “bottega di liuter”. I cite the case of Santo Serafin (who, after he quitted the Guild, continued selling his instruments through the workshop of his nephew George Serafin ), Domenico Busan (selling through Ongaro) and Gobetti (selling through Matteo Sellas).>>

Thank you Sig. Pio, you just answered the precise question I asked you. Yes, I agree that there were numerous makers in Venice other than Deconet who were not part of the guild. This is one of the main contradictions that I point out in your chapter about Deconet. Of course Deconet, like a number of other Venetian makers, was free to make and label his violins even though he was not a member of the guild.

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>>As I already told, there are quite 25/30 violin makers contemporary of Deconet whose work is totally unknown: how to explain the absence on labels related to them while we a have a proliferation of labelled Deconet instruments (made also in the period in which it is certified he was outside of Venice) is a mistery that Reuning should explain to me. If a label is a proof of the existence of a maker, then what do to with all the makers of which we have no labels comproving their activity?>>

This is a very good question that has no easy answer, but the leap of logic to suggest this as a reason to conclude that Deconet (or any other maker who labeled a violin) as not being responsible for his work is too convoluted for me to understand.

Thank you for the following summary of your reasons you concluded Deconet was not a maker of instruments. As a final synopsis of my dissagreement with that particular conclusion, I will provide my point of view for each:

>>On this basis I was/am obliged to conclude what previously said:

a) Deconet was a vagrant violin player and singer for all his life, very often living outside of Venice (vagrant player) thus excluding the possibility of a constant activity as violin maker (if any).>>

I disagree with the conclusion that he was primarily a violin player all his life just as I would disagree if you tried to claim that Gobetti was a calagher his whole life.

>> B) Deconet arrived in Venice when was an adult, consequently nobody would have taken him as workshop apprentice, teaching him the art of violin making according the Venetian style.>>

I do not believe it is necessary for a maker to serve a formal apprenticeship in order to be a violin maker. I believe he began as an amateur (as indicated by his first efforts)

>>c) Pietro Guarneri did not have apprentices or pupils in his workshop, as it is evidenced by the several registrations of the “Marzeri” guild and his tax records. Deconet was not an his apprentice.>>

see previous answer

>>d) Deconet did not have an his workshop, he was not registered to the guild, he did not pay taxes as violin maker and consequently he was not in the position of selling instruments (made by him or others) in Venice.>>

like many other makers in Venice (see previous post)

>>e) Deconet (supposing for a moment he was a maker) was not in the position to compete with large and well organized Venetian workshops like that one of Giorgio Serafin. Consequently Deconet was not “ the most prolific Venetian maker after about 1750” as stated by Charles Beare in Grove dictionary.>>

Deconet was the most prolific maker as judged by the number of instruments firmly attributed to his hand.

>>f) It was impossible to make instruments secretly for a so long time (even for a short time) without to be discovered and punished by the Venetian authority. Control was strict and made not only by the authority and/or the Guild officers but mainly from the “regular” taxed violin makers that would not have accepted a competitor selling instruments “in black”.>>

again, see previous post.

>>g) All Deconet family members were players and not makers.>>

that is a conclusion I would disagree with (pertaining to Michele)

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>>As I already told, there are quite 25/30 violin makers contemporary of Deconet whose work is totally unknown: how to explain the absence on labels related to them while we a have a proliferation of labelled Deconet instruments (made also in the period in which it is certified he was outside of Venice) is a mistery that Reuning should explain to me. If a label is a proof of the existence of a maker, then what do to with all the makers of which we have no labels comproving their activity?>>

This is a very good question that has no easy answer, but the leap of logic to suggest this as a reason to conclude that Deconet (or any other maker who labeled a violin) as not being responsible for his work is to convoluted for me to understand.

Thank you for the following summary of your reasons you concluded Deconet was not a maker of instruments. As a final synopsis of my dissagreement with that particular conclusion, I will provide my point of view for each:

>>On this basis I was/am obliged to conclude what previously said:

a) Deconet was a vagrant violin player and singer for all his life, very often living outside of Venice (vagrant player) thus excluding the possibility of a constant activity as violin maker (if any).>>

I disagree with the conclusion that he was primarily a violin player all his life just as I would disagree if you tried to claim that Gobetti was a calagher his whole life.

>> B) Deconet arrived in Venice when was an adult, consequently nobody would have taken him as workshop apprentice, teaching him the art of violin making according the Venetian style.>>

I do not believe it is necessary for a maker to serve a formal apprenticeship in order to be a violin maker. I believe he began as an amateur (as indicated by his first efforts)

>>c) Pietro Guarneri did not have apprentices or pupils in his workshop, as it is evidenced by the several registrations of the “Marzeri” guild and his tax records. Deconet was not an his apprentice.>>

see previous answer

>>d) Deconet did not have an his workshop, he was not registered to the guild, he did not pay taxes as violin maker and consequently he was not in the position of selling instruments (made by him or others) in Venice.>>

like many other makers in Venice (see previous post)

>>e) Deconet (supposing for a moment he was a maker) was not in the position to compete with large and well organized Venetian workshops like that one of Giorgio Serafin. Consequently Deconet was not “ the most prolific Venetian maker after about 1750” as stated by Charles Beare in Grove dictionary.>>

Deconet was the most prolific maker as judged by the number of instruments firmly attributed to his hand.

>>f) It was impossible to make instruments secretly for a so long time (even for a short time) without to be discovered and punished by the Venetian authority. Control was strict and made not only by the authority and/or the Guild officers but mainly from the “regular” taxed violin makers that would not have accepted a competitor selling instruments “in black”.>>

again, see previous post.

>>g) All Deconet family members were players and not makers.>>

that is a conclusion I would disagree with (pertaining to Michele)

Mr. Reuning,

Perhaps the obstacle that you're getting stuck on is your perceived lack of difference between Gobetti vs. Deconet.

1. Although Gobetti referred to himself as a cobbler, there is contemporaneous evidence from the Montagnana inventory and Ospedale della Pietà that Gobetti made instruments. There is _no_ such evidence for Deconet.

2. There is documentary evidence that Deconet was frequently "out of town," while Gobetti remained in Venice during their years of production.

3. Apparently neither Gobetti and Deconet were members of the guild (Arti dei Marzeri). It was only possible for instruments made by such non-members to be legitimately sold in Venice via a guild member intermediary. In fact there is evidence that such non-members must be, for lack of a better term, "employees" of this intermediary (cf. Comel, post #109). Now if Deconet was the most prolific maker in Venice after 1750, who acted as his intermediary dealer? (In fact, aren't people like you saying Deconet sold instruments himself?)

Incidentally, I now forget where I read this, and have no idea if it's actually true, but Montagnana was also a cobbler before he started making instruments.

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Now this is a very good example of why I personally read Maestronet every day. I feel that regardless of where you may stand, you would have to agree that this debate is clean and strong and involves the sharing of important and valuable ideas. I think this thread may be the most interesting I have ever read here.

Thanks to all.

r.

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Flyboy,

There are many examples other than Gobetti. Another is the Ceruti family who were consistently referred to in documents as musicians.

While it is true that Deconet traveled a fair bit, he also lived to the age of 88 which yields a long working life even if he started as late as age 33. The known output of 40 plus instruments seems perfectly reasonable even if he had a dual career.

We do not know who sold Deconets violins just as we do not know who sold most of the instruments made in that city for 100 years. One could consider they were sold by one of the guild members with a storefront as was customary or outside of Pio's imagined police state within the musical circles Deconet circulated in whilst travelling.

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Hey there Chris.

Does 40 instruments really qualify him with the title of the most prolific violin maker of Venice ?

I guess that is where I am mostly confused. If he were a lesser known maker I would buy the Deconet label. But people like Charles Beare and others including yourself are saying that he was the most prolific of Venitian violin makers.

What is his status in your mind. Major or minor ? 40 instruments suggests minor to me and probably a group of ouvres that would be clearly identifiable.

r.

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Just a little aside (not totally irrelevant) - since a load of old cobblers is being talked about in this post (pun-intended)... Gobetti (and Montagnana?):

Part of the cobbler's craft is 'last' making. Last's come in all sorts, from generic shapes to precisely carved wooden copies of the customer's foot, acting as a mould around which the shoes would be made. For anyone wealthy enough, the cobbler would then retain the last and make further shoes for the same customer. Lasts were also made to be sold to preserve the shape of the shoe. These traditions still continue, but were certainly around as far back as the 16th century too. Last making shares much of the carving skills of the violin maker, hence it is logical to see how people may have transitioned from being cobblers. Remember also that these are cobblers in Venice, and that Venetian fashions were bought by the aristocracy around Europe. A cobbler working in high-fashion would have had to be moderately wealthy to stock very expensive raw materials of fabrics - and of course poor people wore shoes too. We can't make assumptions about the economic backgrounds of these people based purely on our modern ideas of what a cobbler is. Hopefully this provides some logic and context for why these people transitioned from being cobblers to violin makers.

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Dear Rick,

I am sorry if I was not more precise in my earlier posts. To be more exact, here is a list of Venetian makers from Kaiser through Cerin with their dates and total known violin family instrument production. To be clear to Maestronet readers, I do not claim to be a scholar of the Venetian archives, but I have been assisting two very capable scholars for more than 10 years. Although I have had my nose in documents from two Venetian archives on 5 or 6 intense week long study trips, I served as an assistant only. However, I have spent a great deal of time as a "consumer" of the information and have helped analyze the facts. Most of my efforts have been focused on the instruments, so long ago I made a commitment to see and study as many examples as possible. I have also studied photographs from numerous sources and have compiled as complete a catalogue of each maker as possible. I continue to add instruments to this archive, so there are certainly more instruments existing than I know of. As part of this project, I have sorted each maker and put them in date order, so that I can be more confident that I more fully understand their progression. Needless to say, this list contains only the instruments I believe to be authentic.

Mr. Pio posed an important question: what should we think the activities were of all those makers who appear in the archive who left no instruments with labels? Of course, this is a question one could ask from each violin making city in Europe but in Venice, I would propose the following answers:

1. We know of two separate groups of instruments (violin family instruments made by the same maker judging from models and workmanship characteristics) without accurate attribution that seem to have been made in the Veneto region in the early 18th century. These instruments either are unlabeled or have been falsely labeled and attributed to other makers. In each case, there is more than a dozen instruments we know of so far from each maker with more remaining to be discovered. I would suspect that two of the obscure lauters were responsible for these two groups of instruments.

2. We know that there was a lot of instrument repair activity in Venice. Obviously, some of the unknown lauters were engaged in that activity. (see the massive Pieta account books contained in the Archivio di Stato. Most of the Pieta repairs were carried out by the Montagnana shop including when it was operated by Giorgio Serafin)

3. Of course, there were many times more fretted instruments made in Venice than violin family instruments. Because of the attrition rate of these instruments, many of their makers have been "lost".

Based on my study of the instruments of Deconet and others, I do not believe that these unknown makers were responsible for a portion of their output. However, it is of course possible that some of the Venetian makers employed assistants.

Again, these are only the examples I managed to catalogue, so there are certainly more.

M. Kaiser d. after 1692- 4 incl 2 celli

M. Goffriller 1659-1742- 139 incl 43 celli and 8 viola

F. Gofriller 1671 to Udine c.1714- 33 incl 7 celli and 2 violas

F. Gobetti 1675-1723- 27

C. Tononi 1675-1730 fled to Venice in 1719- 58 with 8 celli and 5 violas. (incl Bologna production)

D. Montagnana 1686-1750- 82 incl 34 celli

P. Guarneri 1695- 1762 arrived Venice 1717- 63 incl 10 celli and 1 viola

S. Serafin 1699-1776 arrived Venice 1719- 73 incl 6 celli

M. Deconet c.1712-1799 to Venice c. 1730- 50 incl 6 celli and 8 violas

D. Busan c.1718-1783 to Venice by 1747- 22 including 6 celli and 7 violas

G. Serafin 1726-1775- 19 incl 1 cello

A. Bellosio 1743-1793 to Venice 1763- 28 incl 3 celli and 9 violas

M. Cerin 1774-1810 1774-1810- 7 incl 2 violas

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I like Prof. Pio's point that it could be a win-win situation with new research findings.

The value of a now properly labeled, say, Montagnana, etc., could actually make a fiddle just as or even more valuable. For researchers, the careful unearthing of a much more nuanced and precise historical record seems a worthwhile and delicious project.

It is really a fascinating subject.

I had a friend in school named Kyoung-ah who had purchased a Deconet from Francais in the 80s. She later traded it in, plus cash, for a Joseph filius Andrea which she paid a premium for since it was felt that the work on the instrument body was primarily by del Gesu.

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Looking at those figures it doesnt seem like a very high output,when you consider the way makers worked back then, i.e faster and more spontaneous. As well as pressures such as no work= no food ,there weren`t benefit systems around then.Although i know the guilds did support members ,going through hard times,but i suspect that was strictly limited.

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Hey there Chris.

Thanks so much for the post. I am very surprised at those numbers. In which case 50 instruments is clearly no small amount. I guess I was just thinking about the production of Stradivarius and making a relative comparison. Would you say that there is a clearer "evolution" in the work of Matteo Gofriller for example than of some of the lower output makers ?

Cheers.

r.

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Dear all,

This fascinating thread took this line after Stephen Maloney posted "The problem is Deconet is apparently not an actual maker..." way back on page one. In a way this thread has re-exposed fundamental issues that run through plenty of other topics on Maestronet, but has taken it to a much deeper level.

It remains entirely clear to me that when a body of work is characterised by the expectation of having consistently the same original and undisturbed label of a given maker (in this case Deconet), then it is entirely correct from an ethical, moral, financial and scholarly point of view to identify that violin according to that attribution.

However, if there is evidence of a second identifiable hand within this work, that is a legitimate addition to scholarship. Sometimes this knowledge will make no difference whatsoever, sometimes it may form a criteria for grading instruments with that label with attendant financial implications (one hand producing inferior work, for example), and sometimes the importance of that identifiable hand will be such that it will take precedence. Everything has to be examined on a case-by case basis, and in holding the same ethical, moral, scholarly and financial values, conclusions may not always be clear-cut. (I'm not making any inferences in regard to Deconet - I wish to remain neutral -, this is a possibility that is relevant to many instruments from Stradivari to Roth).

Its worth reflecting on the dilemma faced by the Hills in 1915 concerning the Messeas cello in order to understand how seriously experts have taken these issues and all attendant circumstances: ". . . we find an entry in Arthur Hill's diary from December 23, 1915 in which he states: "One was the sale of a cello made by Joseph Guarnerius filius Andrea, which we obtained from an important Cornish house where it had been lying perdu for very many years to a Mr. James Messas. This is the only cello by the above mentioned maker in which, Alfred tells me, he has been able to definitely detect the handiwork of the great Joseph del Gesu."Apparently, the Hills, while recognizing the cello was made by del Gesu, chose to sell the instrument as labeled rather than specify the actual maker.

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This has been a great thread, in that some very knowledgeable and experienced professionals have been openly sharing a lot of information.

I do not know Prof. Pio personally, but I am a fan of his thorough and serious work, and I would never try to treat him as the inquisition treated Gallileo, as he admonished. (In anycase I am not in any position to do so!) As a fellow academic, I believe we must accept that when we publish something it will be peer reviewed.

I do know Mr. Reuning personally and I know that he actively collaborates with archival researchers (such as C. Chiesa and D. Rosengard). I believe he is extremely open to new ideas, and I gave the example I witnessed of Lorenzo Guadagnini earlier.

A negative is logically almost impossible to prove, but Prof. Pio makes a very strong case for asking serious questions about what we assume to be true about the Venetian school. John Dilworth made that comment in a letter to the Strad, and it seems reasonable that we should ask those questions.

The point Mr. Reuning was making, as I understand it, is that there is a body of work with consistant, chronologically coherent labels and workmanship. That suggests that it was unlikely all these instruments got relabled by different dealers during the last two centuries. That doesn't negate the possibility that Deconet was not the author of these instruments and merely a resseller who inserted his label.

At the same time, it is possible to become a good violin maker without serving a formal apprenticeship in a shop. (Scarampella, the last Bergonzis, Storioni...even Fagnola) There have been fine violin makers who juggled playing and making (P. Guarneri) and prolific violin-makers who have "hidden" themselves from guilds and tax authorities (the Vollers come to mind). Despite the documentary evidence Prof. Pio has brought to light, it is still conceivable that Deconet did make violins in his Venice apartment, possibly then taking them on the road with him to sell outside the city where he wouldn't be bothered by guild or tax scrutiny.

When I suggested we need more research in an earlier post, I wasn't criticisizing the work of Prof. Pio, Mr. Saunders or any one who has done archival research on violin-makers. I was suggesting that we need to keep looking for examples of work, labels, and archival traces that can help us to reach a consensus on what was made by Comer, Ongaro et. al. In the end, Lorenzo Guadagnin was crossed off the list of "real" violin-makers not just because of documents that showed he he was an inn-keeper, but because a consensus of experts recognized the hand of other makers whose work was known and labeled.

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Seriously??

Have you folks gone through the following exercise? If so maybe you would like to point out the same "hand" which I'm failing to discern? If the glove (shoe?) doesn't fit you must acquit!

Throughout this whole thread Pio is the only one who has cited specific works (location & dates) which can be independently checked by all of us.

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.

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I am going to pose a naïve question as I am still a little confused on a few details of the Venetian guild system. Would a non-merchant maker in Venice have to be a workshop employee of a guild member, or is it even possible that a merchant could buy the work of an amateur and resell it? If this is the case, would the instrument not subsequently be relabeled?

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As much as I increasingly admire and understand Professor Pio's work as I wade through it, and as much as his presentation frankly just makes a lot more sense than the dismissive and defensive posturing from some with different views...when I pondered a comparison between him and Galileo I couldn't stop laughing.

Pio's work reflects real scholarship, however. If some sacred cows and myths (Deconet) are destroyed in the process, so be it. I keep thinking of my friend Kyoung or even Sarah Chang, a violinist I greatly admire, who probably paid del Gesu prices for instruments that maybe del Gesu fetched the wood for from the storage room and that was the extent of his involvement. In fact, they are filius Andrea. I reflect on scientists who are also salesmen moving a product with the aid of their latest "discoveries" of fungus and excrement treated wood being the secret of Stradivari, and similar nonsense. I don't think reliable scholarship can be entrusted exclusively to those who have a vested interest in making profit from it, it just isn't possible. Which is why an independent view like Prof. Pio's is so important; ditto Stewart Pollens. Even though Pollens may have gotten it wrong on the Messie, his work certainly raised a lot of awareness about proper dendrochronology and how important a tool that is in research.

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Seriously??

I imagine those who have posed alternate views are serious, Flyboy... otherwise they might not have mentioned them. Those participating have admitted their own limitations, but honestly I am personally aware that (politely and correctly in my opinion) none have waded too deeply into other information (yet unpublished) from other sources, nor questioned the veracity of instruments owned by others in a public forum... Example; If Mr. Reuning states he (and others) has/have catalogued 50 Deconet instruments he (and others) are satisfied with, and Mr. Pio claims to have examined "more than 100" attributed to Deconet (post #51), might it be a possibility there is some disagreement concerning these remaining 50+?

In any case, having a discussion is where these views get pounded out and clarified, don't you think (or are you an expert on Venetian instruments and archival information yourself)? Personally, I'm enjoying the thread and doing my best to absorb the varied viewpoints and examples.

As much as I increasingly admire and understand Professor Pio's work as I wade through it, and as much as his presentation frankly just makes a lot more sense than the dismissive and defensive posturing from some with different views...when I pondered a comparison between him and Galileo I couldn't stop laughing.

Are you including yourself in the posturing group, Stephen? See above.

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I am going to pose a naïve question as I am still a little confused on a few details of the Venetian guild system. Would a non-merchant maker in Venice have to be a workshop employee of a guild member, or is it even possible that a merchant could buy the work of an amateur and resell it? If this is the case, would the instrument not subsequently be relabeled?

In order to sell his violin in Venice, a non-guild member would need a guild member colleague to sell his violin for him.

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When I suggested we need more research in an earlier post, I wasn't criticisizing the work of Prof. Pio, Mr. Saunders or any one who has done archival research on violin-makers. I was suggesting that we need to keep looking for examples of work, labels, and archival traces that can help us to reach a consensus on what was made by Comer, Ongaro et. al. In the end, Lorenzo Guadagnin was crossed off the list of "real" violin-makers not just because of documents that showed he he was an inn-keeper, but because a consensus of experts recognized the hand of other makers whose work was known and labeled.

I kind of doubt it. The Konzertmeister in Bremen had a Lorenzo Guadagnini, with all the top papers one could wish for, and nobody would have dreamt of suggesting it wasn`t one, or even had the slightest idea themselves, quite the opposite, we queued to admire it, untill the cited archival research. I would love to know what a Comer or Ongaro etc. looks like too! Curious that an inn-keeper can`t make a violin, and an itinerant musician can make dozens of very nice ones, isn`t it?

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