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Katarina Guarneri


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Her maiden name was Rota, or Roda. I think it's a fact that she was a violin maker from the Tyrol. Why then wouldn't she be making violins? I wonder if the violins which are marked // were in fact made by Caterina. We know that women have always been overlooked and/or seen as less competent so it is quite understandable that she might have used Joseph's labels in her own work.

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Here a very intersting article about Katarina by Roger Hargrave:

 

http://www.roger-hargrave.de/PDF/Artikel/Strad/Artikel_2000_09_Seeking_MRS_Guarneri_PDF.pdf

 

There is historical evidence of instruments with labels by Katarina, but they may have be removed. There

would no problem for a woman signing instruments in that time, I think. Sofonisba Anguissola was a Cremonese

woman painter who lived from 1532 to 1625, she was a well known painter:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sofonisba_Anguissola

 

 

Woman poets and musicians in Italy were not all that rare too. 

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It is not the case of blaming a woman for poor workmanship, but a survival question. The Guarneris were ruined in terms of money, Giuseppe and Katarina had no children to help them, so it is natural that she started helping Giuseppe making violins. The Leduc violin is dated 1745 and Giuseppe died in 1744...

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There seems to be pretty strong reasons for believing that she not only existed, but also helped make instruments. I think there is a huge subject of women makers, just waiting to be written about,  - Montagnana had five daughters, all active in the workshop and he left his tools to them. Anyway, that's my 2p worth - the thing below seems to cover the rest of it if it helps!

 

 

GUARNERI, Katarina 

b.c.1700, d. after 1748 Vienna Austria 

Wife of Bartolomeo Giuseppe ‘del Gesù’, whom she married in 1722. Her family name was Rota, and she probably came to Cremona with the Austrian army. Speculation that she may have assisted her husband in the workshop or made some instruments in her own right stems from F. J. Fetis’ published account (1856) of Cremonese oral traditions to that effect. De Picollelis (1885) refers to violins with her manuscript label, but only one printed ticket, somewhat surprisingly found in a viola, has been published [Henley, following Petherick, 1905]; the original has not yet been verified. The label has some credibility since the documentary evidence of Katarina’s name and identity was only discovered in the late 20th century; in earlier publications there is speculation that she was the sister of del Gesù. The remaining difficulty is that the date given on the label is 1749. After del Gesù’s death in 1744 she remarried in 1748 and seems to have left the city in that year. It is certainly plausible that, since the couple had no children, Katarina may have assisted in the workshop. Any instruments bearing her name, although this would seem very unlikely according to the customs of the time, would very likely have been later relabelled and sold as the work of del Gesù. 

Katarina Guarneria Fecit / Cremone Anno 1749 I.H.S. 

 

(JD from the book)

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Christopher:

 

In my own small way I notice that after many repeats of the same task one develops a working method, a style, and there's a common "look" that starts to develop in one's work.

 

I'm honestly at a loss to understand how a trained hand that made scrolls like the Plowden or Teja Ferni, for example, could ever have made the Leduc.  It's just so different... incompetent almost, with none of the symmetries of previous work.  Why would expert hand and eye go off the rails like that? 


Best regards,

 

E

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I believe it's pretty well documented that del Gesu had a wife named Katarina.  Is there a reason to doubt her existence?

 

The big question is: How much was she involved in del Gesu's violin making, before and after his death?

If she was involved in his making after his death, that would be quite a feat, compadre to the north.  Then again, if HE was involved in his making after his death, why couldn't she be?  :lol:

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If she was involved in his making after his death, that would be quite a feat, compadre to the north.  Then again, if HE was involved in his making after his death, why couldn't she be?  :lol:

 

I was waiting for someone to take note of this phenomenon of making after one's death.  

 

The resolution to this apparent supernatural activiy is that a violin may be an X and regarded as an X in the violin trade (where X equals some maker's name) but is not made by the hands of X.  In other words, X is a shop designation and not the designation of the person who actually made the instrument. 

 

The best example of this kind of emphasizing the shop in which or for which the fiddle was made over the actual hands which made the fiddle is the case of Nicolo Amati.  When he was working for his father Hieronymus in the 1620s, Nicolo, Beare tells us, was the main producer of violins in his father's shop. Yet those fiddles went into the world labeled for the father, not labeled for Nicolo.  At the other end of Nicolo's production, when the shop was indeed the Nicolo Amati shop, most of the instruments from the Nicolo Amati shop after 1665 or 1670, the Hills tell us, were not the work of an old man, but the work of Nicolo's assistants.  Some of these "assistants," specifically Andrea Guarneri and Francesco Rugeri, no longer worked in the Nicolo Amati shop; they were independent makers.  Yet, the Hills state, these independent makers occassionally made entire instruments for Nicolo Amati and those instruments got original Nicolo Amati labels and presumably sold as such.

 

My point is that a label in classical Cremona designating an instrument as being by X does not necessarily mean that the hands of X made the fiddle.  That label may be nothing more than a shop designation.

 

So, if Katarina or anybody else who regarded themselves as the proper and lawful heir of the Guarneri shop after del Gesu's death continued making violins after del Gesu's death (perhaps completing fiddles already started), that someone might have felt perfectly justified in placing the last Guarneri shop label (namely the del Gesu label) into the fiddles so made.

 

In short someone in the del Gesu shop could have made a genuine del Gesu after del Gesu's death, if we allow that in classical Cremona a label designates the shop from which the fiddle came, and not necessarily the hands which made it, and we allow that the del Gesu shop continued after del Gesu's death for a few years, perhaps in wind down mode.

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When I am back home I will pull out evidence of another Katerina, Catherine Carr who was clearly a violin dealer to be reckoned with in London in the 1670s. Elizabeth Norman active on her own account from 1725 to 1730, the widow of Barak Norman, and Elizabeth Haren are further examples worthy of note. Instruments labelled with Elizabeth's name exist. I have some difficulty knowing whether she actually made them, simply because I have never been convinced that her husband, John Hare made instruments either... They seem to have been retailers.

I think we have a very poor understanding of what women did within a family business, and what they did when they were widowed. If there are/were instruments labelled by Katarina Guarneri, there should be no reason to detect a separate hand. Presumably she didn't simply pick up tools after her husband died.

Of interest, instruments labelled for Barak Norman and Nathaniel Cross, are posthumous instruments made or completed after Barak Norman died, when his widow ran the business, as a parallel example, there is also absolutely no sign of a different hand, because workshop practices were so well established by this point.

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I sense at the very least a presentation for a future VSA convention/conference on the subject of the roles played by women in the early years of the trade.  Sure, a lot of the details may be sketchy.  But it is a worthy topic.  Then, once some "accepted truths" have been established, Roger Hargrave can come along and bust up some of the china and get everyone all worked up again.  I'll start stocking up on popcorn for the occasion.

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If one just takes the Fs of either the "Ole Bull" or particularly the "DeBeriot" can anyone come up with another scenario other than these:

Either:

1. Guarneri had a physical, visual, or mental problem.

2. Guarneri was "making a statement." (Which COULD include a devil-may-care attitude, I suppose)

3. Someone else did these Fs who either:

A. Had a physical, visual, or mental problem.

B. Was not very good, or was an amateur.

C. Was getting even with dG.

Surely if Katarina sought help to clear dG's bench, she could have done better. I can't imagine any professional maker in Cremona at the time, such as Bergonzi, intentionally doing this to a colleague (or to Katarina, for that matter).

And, I believe that these Fs have become so iconic that it is hard to criticize, but surely similar work at the VSA wouldn't pass muster. I for one can't help but admire them anyway, but I wonder whether I am being objective or influenced by the mystique.

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If one just takes the Fs of either the "Ole Bull" or particularly the "DeBeriot" can anyone come up with another scenario other than these:

Either:

1. Guarneri had a physical, visual, or mental problem.

2. Guarneri was "making a statement." (Which COULD include a devil-may-care attitude, I suppose)

3. Someone else did these Fs who either:

A. Had a physical, visual, or mental problem.

B. Was not very good, or was an amateur.

C. Was getting even with dG.

Surely if Katarina sought help to clear dG's bench, she could have done better. I can't imagine any professional maker in Cremona at the time, such as Bergonzi, intentionally doing this to a colleague (or to Katarina, for that matter).

And, I believe that these Fs have become so iconic that it is hard to criticize, but surely similar work at the VSA wouldn't pass muster. I for one can't help but admire them anyway, but I wonder whether I am being objective or influenced by the mystique.

Tonight just for the sake of it I decided to study some plaster casts of late del Gesu ( including the Ole Bull) along side some Golden period Strad ones....There is something about a white cast without the varnish variations/reflections that allows an easier assessment of the shape....There is nothing un Cremonese or un masterly about the late del Gesu archings in fact I would say that grammatically, in terms of the period, they are of the very highest order.

There is a tendency in the modern understanding of these guys to think too much in terms of the visual. However..they were after all making MUSICAL instruments for a demanding clientele  and they knew what they were doing...they were not struggling to make a VSO or somethingthat looked Cremonese!..If a third generation master Cremonese maker was making bigger F holes.. the first question we need to ask possibly is not be was he mad? :) ......but how mad are we ( including me) if we do not understand it? The Ole Bull seemed pretty good last time I heard it in person.

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Melvin, 

 

Do you see merit in viewing del Gesu's scrolls through the lens of what the Milanese could get away with at that time... there's nothing I can think of that compares directly, and I don't want to suggest that they are the same, but I see an awful lot of the same ideology in swiftly carving something 'for effect'. 

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I have a hard time swallowing the story he was a impetuous worker who did arching and everything else that involved sound with the skill of a genius and the rest just willy nilly.  People don't work like that, if they are good craftsmen they do good work everywhere.  Your ability isn't something you just turn on and off.  

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As promised, a few bits and bobs about English women involved in business... I know England is by no means the same as Italy, but I think it is vaguely useful to see what was happening around the same time-ish, and what was possible. Then you can start to look at the specifics of a particular country, city, etc. 

 

A deposition exists from 6 May 1672 in the Calendar of State Papers, made by Katherine Carr, and is actually one of the few pieces of evidence showing that the family dealt in instruments as well as music. Accordingly Captain Sadlington of the fifth rate frigate the ‘Dartmouth’ had entered Carr’s shop, where he had pressed into service the two boys who were there. One of them, John Hudgebut was her ‘apprentice for the trade of Instruments’ whilst the other named Stephkin was a musician and a servant of the King. ‘The Captain told her, if she would give him a violin out of her shop, he would release the prentice’. She managed to get them back, but it's interesting that the deposition refers to 'her' apprentice rather than defaulting to the husband. Incidentally, Stephkin's sister - Christina, married Gaspar Visconti and moved to Cremona. Its she who is referenced in some of Strad's templates.... 

 

Here, from Comes Amores: Or the Companion of Love, published in 1687 is a poem about the  Carr shop. Samuel Scott was his apprentice, and more a publishing figure than Hudgebut (above). John Playford was a music publisher working about 100meters away (in a lean-too shop against the church where they have a shoot out in the DaVinci Code). I think it makes everything clear - and set to music by none other than Purcell!  

 

 

A CATCH BY WAY OF EPISTLE, SETT by Mr. HENRY PURCELL.

To all lovers of musick, performers and scrapers,

To those that love catches, play-tunes, and cut capers,

With a new catch I greet you, and though I say it that should'n,

Like a fiddle the musick, though the words are but wooden,

But my brother John Playford and I shall present you,

Ere long, with a book I presume will content you.

'Tis true we know well the sale of good musick,

But to hear us perform would make him sick, or you sick,

My maggott-man Sam, at the first Temple gate,

Will further inform you, if not my wife Kate,

From between the two Divels near Temple Bar,

I rest your friend, and servant, John Carr.

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Melvin, 

 

Do you see merit in viewing del Gesu's scrolls through the lens of what the Milanese could get away with at that time... there's nothing I can think of that compares directly, and I don't want to suggest that they are the same, but I see an awful lot of the same ideology in swiftly carving something 'for effect'. 

Hi Ben...I don't know.......  but your suggestion is thought provoking and there are folk better equipped to answer it than me.  To my eye del Gesu scrolls generally seem stylistically coherant with the box...ie the Leduc scroll matches the gothic F holes and the Lumpen Cannone head fits the biggest violin he made and the Fathers heads fit his earlier more Amatise works....What does seem apparent is that DG  was much more interested in making bodies than making scrolls. The near pristine Chardon Pochette is worth a look.  On the other hand we know that DG spent most of his time not making his own scrolls...What might this tell us?....

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Berl, you can make a brilliant statement without cleaning it up perfectly. I am not one who drools over DG's work, but I respect his innovation, and his strong sense of design. And the sound, natch.

A brilliant arch, a scroll which balances the weight of the corpus, and soundholes which maximize the effect flatter, broader arches give to an instrument's sound: these are the legacy of a man who was an incredible craftsman. He just didn't love his scrapers as much as some others did.

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There is so much we don't understand (at least I don't) about their work.  Things like exactly who did what and where.  I had one very well known historian tell me he thought DG and his father worked for Strad for a long period in the 1720's.  I don't know if that's right or wrong but, it makes as much sense as some of the other stuff we've been told.  

 

Edit: I make as many DG model violins as anything else, because they sound good.  I hope I didn't come off as a  DG hater.  I just have questions, that's all. 

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