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Question about Stradivari scroll


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Todd, many classical Cremonese makers decorated their violins with black highlighted edges on the scroll (and sometimes on the rib edges too) the way you can see it on your attached picture, which shows the Messiah and Lady Blunt which have to be the two best preserved Stradivari violins still in existents.

But Many other violins from that period still show remnants of this decoration. The Titian is one of many. But as you correctly suspected, heavy usage worn off this decoration.

Cheers, Peter

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I hate to rain on your parade.... (sorry)

I don't know of a single Stradivari with blackened chamfers before 1690, and with certainty none before 1685 or so, but him and his sons used black chamfers throughout after this point. Even the decorated Strads from before this point are without a blackened chamfer, despite other decoration to the scroll. As for other makers, there is a 1733 Bergonzi, the Salabue which was the only one in the recent exhibition that had bits of black on the chamfers, although I wonder if that was added later to help draw comparison to Stradivari (he carves very delicate chamfers, I can't really see that working with black ink on top). Certainly del Gesu applied black on the 1735 Chardon miniature violin, and in later works you do see remnants of black on some - the 1744 Ole Bull is an example. But I am not at all certain that this was standard practice. There seem to be just as many without trace of black, especially the scrolls carved by his father. I'll leave a questionmark over scrolls like the Ole Bull, since it seems daft to pick out the lumpyness of the carving with a thick black line - once again there is a possiblilty that many of these were given a dusting of black in the early nineteenth-century in order to liken del Gesu to Strad. I can see the motive there. But I'm touching on a particularly difficult subject, certainly without the answers at hand.

As for other Cremonese makers, most of them were dead by 1685-90 which rules them out. There are no other Classical Cremonese makers associated with the practice.

I am not conscious of having ever seen blackened rib edges on a classical Cremonese instrument. I think its a French habit of the 19th century. Bruce Carlson or Roger Hargrave, I'm sure can correct me on this.

As an irony, the practice was adopted in England and there are probably more English names associated with the practice than Cremonese - Parker, Norman, Hare and Lewis, all before 1720. Later in Milan, Landolfi also adopted a blackened chamfer, and likewise Guadagnini sometimes but not all. ... it is infinitely rare before the French made a rage of it in the 19th century.

Once again, sorry to contradict you!

Ben :)

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In case the question relates to what the black is, here is Sacconi on the subject:

"From 1688 onwards all Stradivari's scrolls have their chamfer blackened with ink. When the instrument had been varnished he removed, by scraping, only the coloured varnish on the surface of the chamfer which outlined the scroll. He then went over this with black ink which, as soon as it had dried, he covered with a new coat of varnish. Since this was fairly transparent it allowed the dark edging to be seen and at the same time toned down the harshness of the ink. In this way he obtained a soft outline which enhanced the plasticity of the scroll."

But I'm not sure if anyone knows or not what the ink was made from.

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Stradivari did pick out the chamfers of the scroll once he began to broaden the width of the chamfer itself.  I also had a date of "around 1690" starting with the Medici Tuscan set, but I'm sure Sacconi in combination with Rembert Wurlitzer, both having seen a large number of instruments, could be more authoratative about the very earliest example seen.


Guarneri 'del Gesù'  as seen on the 'Chardon' of 1735 blackened the scroll chamfers, the inside pegbox wall chamfer, the rib joins AND the chamfer for the button of the back! All of this can be found on the "Cannone" except the button of the back that had been reduced in size; probably when the neck was blocked up at the heel.


If I recall correctly J.B. Guadagnini started on the scroll chamfer in Turin probably at the request of Count Cozio di Salabue who was inciting Guadagnini to work more like Stradivari.

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  • 3 years later...

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