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Titanic Violin


Oldtimerr
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Well!!!

Take this with a grain of salt, but just now on ABC News ( 6:20pm PST), they announced the Hartley violin has been verified to be authentic, and will be auctioned soon. Typical of our media, they did hedge their bets with some "ifs and buts," which make me think we're right back where we started.

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Contemporary survivors accounts (published before the current bru-ha-ha), state Hartley placed the instrument in its leather case and strapped it to himself before the band made a final swim for it (they did not just wait to drown on deck). See an interesting account in Christopher Ward's (2011) And the Band Played On. His body was recovered, and it is stated he was found with the case still strapped to him - the second violinst and bassist's bodies were recovered in the sea near him - all 8 days after the sinking. Hume, the second violinist, had a violin mute still in his pocket. Thus, this is not impossible - though the instrument would no doubt have needed some serious restoration work!

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Hmmm... Given the silence so far, I'll, er... "Jump in", so to speak.... so apparently there are letters confirming that "A" violin was returned to the family, and apparently this violin is inscribed "For Wallace on the occasion of our engagement from Maria"... well, maybe it was his violin with all those remarkably fancy transfers on it (probably bunged on afterwards as a memorial)... but who says it is the violin he took on board the ship. He patently owned at least one other violin long before he got engaged... sounds plausible, but the press have clearly got carried away on this. That is, presuming that it isn't a spoof.

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  • 3 weeks later...

 

 thanks for drawing this very interesting story to our attention. I, for one, found it fascinating reading and was surprised that there seem to be no mention of who made the violin. Perhaps that is of relatively minor interest compared to its association with the Titanic but it looks quite a nice instrument all the same. Any guesses what it might be?

Glenn

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Given that its a double-purfling Maggini model, I am tentatively thinking something like a late 19th century James Hardie violin (b.1836, d.1916). It would have been quite a respectable new violin at the time: Honeyman rated them and he was quite a popular writer in the Edwardian violin press. Rattray has, however, speculated that a good portion of the Hardie Maggini models were simply imported from Germany in the white, then varnished and fitted up by Hardie. That said, the f's don't look like any of James Hardie's that I have ever seen. Other suggestions?

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Whatever its ultimate origin, It's always refreshing to have something posted here turn out to be as claimed. 

 

 

Any opinions on whether leaving it as is or restoring it would be the greater abuse?  I'd be for stabilizing it and putting it on display somewhere as an artifact of the disaster, but I'm sure that some would be tempted to "restore" and actually play it........

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I hope that eventually a book will come out on the expertise used to arrive at the conclusion.  It will be fascinating.

 

I hate to be suspicious, but the commemorative plate seems too clever.  What are the odds that a given violin that ends up on the Titanic would have such a plate?  And the violin doesn't seem to be the one in the picture of the uniformed Hartley (which makes the whole thing less cut and dried).

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The period engraving style and hallmarks would not be easy to fake (as well as the corrosion) and the names match. If this is a forgery (which I doubt) it would have to have been a very long game. Remember also, these musicians were on many ships over time - any photos on file could have been from years before. Have a look at Christopher Ward's book which I mentioned in an earlier posting - its a real eye opener into the lives of ocean liner musicians.

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ABC News' story, FWIW:

 

http://abcnews.go.com/International/titanic-violin-authenticated-genuine/story?id=18739678

 

 

While I would certainly prefer to see an article on violin literature, a fine violinist, lutherie, or something with a direct connection to music making in the world today, at least a violin is showing up in the US press (which doesn't happen very often).

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Re post 14,

Yes the photo of Hartley (with a violin) must have been from another time, since there are at least two other photos related specifically to the Titanic orchestra. A shame the Titanic orchestra photos weren't with instruments

What bugs me, so far, is the nature of some of the statements; but maybe that's just bad reporting. For example, is the violin really made of rosewood? That's a new one on me, but I could be wrong. That calls into question the level of expertise. And the hallmarks indicate 1910 but the "engagement" was supposedly shortly before Hartley signed on, which is given as 1912. (Different wording in different articles) A long engagement? Certainly not impossible, though. And the statements of the auctioneers that you can't fake age; maybe so, but you can certainly go out and get an old violin of the period (which would be cheap enough, in fact cheaper than making a fake from scratch). And I'm happy to be corrected that taking the violin out to the ocean for a few days and letting it sit for a few years ought to take care of a little corrosion; and "deposits on it were compatible with immersion in sea water" isn't exactly proof.

Then, it just seems an odd engagement present. Did Ms Robinson buy a violin for a professional violinist? Not impossible. But is the violin suitable for a professional violinist? Has the violin been shown and adjudged appropriate by a violin expert? Hartley obviously already had a violin or violins. Why buy this one? If Beare, for example, could determine this is a violin a serious professional would use to advantage, I'd feel better about the whole thing. I just don't think professional violinists were playing on junk, even back then.

I'm not arguing any of this to get into it with experts, but it's a fascinating story and all the questions (half-baked or not) should be answered, not just for the sake of the authenticity, but for the sake of the humans involved. Accepting everything to be legitimate, I would love to find out the story of how Ms Robinson and perhaps Mr. Hartley set out to get this instrument. Maybe he wanted it but it was too expensive and she helped him buy it. That would make more sense than her having just surprised him with it, with the plate already in place. Then there is a chance the plate itself was the gift, not the violin.

But surely everyone would have to agree that putting a plate that big on a tail-piece is unusual, and otherwise there wouldn't be much to connect the violin with either Hartley or Robinson; the very thing a faker would need to do. Have any of you ever seen a similar plate?

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And the statements of the auctioneers that you can't fake age;  maybe so, but you can certainly go out and get an old violin of the period (which would be cheap enough, in fact cheaper than making a fake from scratch).

 

Then, it just seems an odd engagement present.  Did Ms Robinson buy a violin for a professional violinist?  Not impossible.  But is the violin suitable for a professional violinist?  Has the violin been shown and adjudged appropriate by a violin expert?

Congratulations on beeing the first to wonder about the violin itself! It is a shame that one only gets to see pictures of the belly, but thus far it seems to me to have a familiar feeling of an Austro-Hungarian instrument from the first half of the 19th. C. (subject to revision should one get to see the rest), the double purfeling so far in from the edge, reminding me of a couple of makers from this region. So I think one can be pretty sure that it was old enough to have been on the Titanic, although one could say that of hundreds of thousands of other old violins. The question “is the violin suitable for a professional violinist”? is something of a mute point, should you happen to know what sort of kit many orchestral professionals actually play on. It strikes me, that the only thing that one would need to fake, to turn this into a “Titanic Violin” would be the tailpiece.I wonder if Mozart ever played on it?
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I don't know if the technical book will come out, but I'm sure that the romantic novel will.  I'll probably buy a copy, and go see the movie, too :)


.

 

I hope that eventually a book will come out on the expertise used to arrive at the conclusion.  It will be fascinating.

 



. Accepting everything to be legitimate, I would love to find out the story of how Ms Robinson and perhaps Mr. Hartley set out to get this instrument. Maybe he wanted it but it was too expensive and she helped him buy it. That would make more sense than her having just surprised him with it, with the plate already in place. Then there is a chance the plate itself was the gift, not the violin.

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Well, thanks Jacob for not immediately blowing me out of the water.

 

My thoughts, primarily as a violinist, are that we violinists take the most appropriate violin for a job.  The maiden voyage of the Titanic was a very special event and I certainly would have brought a decent violin, probably my BEST.  I'm not saying the violin in question is or isn't junk, but if someone determines that it is junk, I'd be surprised Mr. Hartley would have brought it.  This all brings more questions about exactly what experts were involved.  And that's why I wrote in post 13 that I hope a book comes out that answers all the questions one can come up with.

 

Re post 18, yes vdamore, my mind is reeling with imaginings of how this might have come about and what dialog might go with it.  I could see Miss Robinson handing Hartley the tail-piece with the plate and saying, "Wallace, sometimes when you play the violin you seem to forget about me.  Now, with this on your violin, every time you look down you will think of me and know I am waiting for you."  ...or something similar.

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I think the present should have been just the plate on the tailpiece and concerning the violin I wouldn't find it odd if it would come out to be some Austro-Hungarian instrument from the first half of the 19th. C. as Jacob pointed. It was a little orchestra to amuse passengers, they were crew and not necessarily with a great income (not the berliner philarmoniker)

I too found strange however that there's not much pictures of the violin and not a one from the back. About the "rosewood" name I took it due to the color of the varnish ressembling that wood?

Edit: About the scarce pictures it could be not to focuss attention on a possibly low violin value and present it more like a Titanic jewel

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The violin has been examined by Bath-based dealer Andrew Hooker, who estimated its date as between 1880 and 1900. Based on a Maggini model, it was probably made in a German factory, possibly in Markneukirchen or Klingenthal. It has a spruce front and maple back. No maker’s label has survived, although the violin bears a silver plate on the tailpiece, with the inscription: ‘For Wallace on the occasion of our engagement from Maria.’

 

http://thestrad.com/Article.asp?ArticleID=2579

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