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Katarina Guarneri


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 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.  

 

Roger Hargrave has suggested in The Strad magazine, some issues back, that del Gesu possibly worked for Stradivari in the 1722 to 1732 period.  That speculation was based on the fact that the Guarneri shop produced very few instruments at that time and based on the similarity in arching of some of the Strads of that time with del Gesu's. 

 

Here's a relevant thread:

 

http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/323802-yet-another-question-for-roger-hargrave/

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The story of Del Gesu's wife has been approached several times and two relevant articles can be found on my web site. One from the Guarneri book and one from the Strad.

 

Now, the Ole Bull is an interesting instrument. Its outline appears very different from most of the other del Gesu violins, (as do the sound-holes). When I initially examined more than thirty outlines in 1994, I came to the conclusion, that with the exception of one or two very early instruments, they were all made on the same mould. The only post 1732 instruments that did not appear to fit this pattern were the Vieuxtemps and the Ole Bull. I was only able to realized why they did not conform, because some years earlier I had made my first baroque violin using the Cremonese method that I had previously (theoretically) reconstructed. I had made and removed the rib structure from the mould. I had then attached the neck to the loose ribs. However, when I clamped the rib structure to the back, in order to take the outline, I had no specialized clamps. Consequently the clamps slipped out of position, and without noticing this, I marked the back outline and working quickly, (as I usually do), I cut out the outline with a coping saw. Only later did I realize what had happened. But it was an expensive piece of wood and the outline was still playable, so I finished the violin and sold to a concert master in Germany. He is still happily playing on it. So much for the need to copy accurately.

 

Unfortunately, even if I explain that; as with my first Cremonese baroque method violin, three of the Ole Bull's blocks must have moved out of position as the outline was being taken, it is almost impossible to comprehend how easily this can happen, unless it has happened to you. It is a beginners mistake. However, in complete contrast, it seems to me that the Vieuxtemps outline was deliberately manipulated to produce a slightly longer pattern, rather like Strads 1690's instruments. Here again, unless you have tried this it is a difficult concept to grasp. This is also true of many other details that I have tried to explain about the Cremonese method. Unless you have done it, and sometimes this requires several attempts, the explanations are often difficult to comprehend. It is rather like driving a vehicle with rear wheel steering. It takes a little getting used to.     

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Mr. Hargrave’s web-site is the most valuable source of information for everybody who wants to know more about work and life of GdG. I am curious where is, besides the photos of Katarina Guarneri’s (fictitious?) label shown in the article about her, possible to see photo of so called “Nepos label” which Mr. Hargrave had mentioned in article about GdG labels. According to him, facsimile of that label is in Wurlitzer collection and reproduction is in Vidal’s book, but the photo never appeared in public. Am I wrong with that?

      

Also, for me is very interesting Mr. Hargrave’s opinion why GdG had used significant symboling IHS on his labels. According to him “this symbol may have indicated the location of the new workshop possibly identified by similar inscription above the door.”

I think generally too little attention was paid on speculation about possible reasons for using such significantly religious symbol on particular violin label. Something similar wasn’t seen before, or after GdG did it, that was completely unique case in violin making history.

According to generally accepted opinion “he wished to avoid having his instruments confused with those of his father”. In Hill’s book there is a word “perhaps” in front of this statement. They also presumed “that he owed his education to Jesuits” whose symbol was “the cipher I.H.S. surmounted by the Cross.”

But is that necessarily so? Christogram ‘IHS’ is one of the oldest among Christian symbols, and perhaps the best known of all, besides the cross itself. Letters ‘IHS’, with a Latin cross above ‘H’ is generally known as symbol of Jesuits but there is also three nails bellow ‘H’.  

On GdG labels cross is in form of Greek cross and there is no nails, so does he really refers to Jesuits? The form of the cross is very similar to that used by Dominican order. And the church S. Domenico with the Convent was next door to the Guarneri House. Could it possible that exists some kind of connection between GdG and Dominicans instead Jesuits, and is there some trace of that connection, left in S. Domenico archive books?

After all, in the Convent was in 1773 living, according to the Hill’s, “ex portinaio” (i.e. former janitor), his namesake Joseph Guarneri, son of the late Joannes Baptista. Perhaps the same Joseph who was born, according to Piccolellis, on October, 16th 1687?  

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Mr. Hargrave’s web-site is the most valuable source of information for everybody who wants to know more about work and life of GdG. I am curious where is, besides the photos of Katarina Guarneri’s (fictitious?) label shown in the article about her, possible to see photo of so called “Nepos label” which Mr. Hargrave had mentioned in article about GdG labels. According to him, facsimile of that label is in Wurlitzer collection and reproduction is in Vidal’s book, but the photo never appeared in public. Am I wrong with that?

      

Also, for me is very interesting Mr. Hargrave’s opinion why GdG had used significant symboling IHS on his labels. According to him “this symbol may have indicated the location of the new workshop possibly identified by similar inscription above the door.”

I think generally too little attention was paid on speculation about possible reasons for using such significantly religious symbol on particular violin label. Something similar wasn’t seen before, or after GdG did it, that was completely unique case in violin making history.

According to generally accepted opinion “he wished to avoid having his instruments confused with those of his father”. In Hill’s book there is a word “perhaps” in front of this statement. They also presumed “that he owed his education to Jesuits” whose symbol was “the cipher I.H.S. surmounted by the Cross.”

But is that necessarily so? Christogram ‘IHS’ is one of the oldest among Christian symbols, and perhaps the best known of all, besides the cross itself. Letters ‘IHS’, with a Latin cross above ‘H’ is generally known as symbol of Jesuits but there is also three nails bellow ‘H’.  

On GdG labels cross is in form of Greek cross and there is no nails, so does he really refers to Jesuits? The form of the cross is very similar to that used by Dominican order. And the church S. Domenico with the Convent was next door to the Guarneri House. Could it possible that exists some kind of connection between GdG and Dominicans instead Jesuits, and is there some trace of that connection, left in S. Domenico archive books?

After all, in the Convent was in 1773 living, according to the Hill’s, “ex portinaio” (i.e. former janitor), his namesake Joseph Guarneri, son of the late Joannes Baptista. Perhaps the same Joseph who was born, according to Piccolellis, on October, 16th 1687?  

Del Gesu's house still exists in Cremona and the IHS sign is still above the door. I'm not sure if it is original but... These signs were common before houses were numbered. John has written some interesting stuff about such signs in London. 

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The connection between some churchmen and violinmakers is quite interesting.

 

At the same time as Giuseppe was making violins in Cremona, the jesuits (including some cremonese) where teaching the indians in south America to make violins and music.

 

Music New and Old, From the Jungles of Paraguay

 

a quote from the article above:

 

Historians were already well aware of the extraordinary musical expertise attained by the Guaranì. Benedict XIV wrote about it in a 1749 encyclical. And it was well known that in each Reduction, there was a school of music – a real and proper conservatory – together with an elaborate workshop that produced every sort of instrument, from violins to organs, from harps to horns. What was unknown was the kind of music that the Guaranì played under the guidance of the Jesuits.

 

A quote from another paper: ( regarding a couple of decades later but I believe it still applies)

 

The Religious Schools: Philosophy, Public and Private

A sharp dividing line must be drawn at this point between practitioners, whose aim was, even in the graduate professions, to follow the shortest possible course of study before entering the service of some private professional, member of a city Collegio, and those who had the income and leisure to cultivate scientific or “philosophical” studies for their own sake, without being driven by the need to gain quick access to independent practice and profit. Two main groups were in such a position in 18th- century Lombardy: “dilettante” patricians living on their income and members of the clergy and especially of the regular Orders, whose leisure was guaranteed by ecclesiastical rents.

 

from: Scientific and Professional Education in Lombardy, 1760-1803: Physics Between Medicine and Engineering

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It's really interesting to know that there is an IHS sign above the door of del Gesu's house, but - to give a counter argument, there's little surprise there with a maker who put IHS in the violins that he made. I'm not convinced that this was a 'shop sign' as such. For one thing, it seems common enough that it would only lead to confusion with a poor customer looking for him by knocking on the door of every Jesuit building in the city! These are my thoughts... I don't know what the answer is. 

 

One good counter-argument is that none of the other Cremonese makers made reference to a sign, meanwhile in Milan the Testore's used 'al Segno dell' Aquila', Grancino used 'al segno della Corona'. This may have something to do with the differences between a small city, and the heaving metropolis that Milan was. In the case of London shop signs, that Roger references, it's important to understand that in London all commercial premises had signs - the tradition lives on with pubs today, but was eventually legislated against in the late eighteenth-century because many of them became dangerous and killed people. Numbers, anyway were much more logical (if boring). Just as with pub signs today, shop signs didn't necessarily have anything to do with the trade that was practiced. They could do, and actually London instrument makers were pretty good at keeping things relevant. On the other hand, if you were on a whole street of candle-makers there's only so many trade in-jokes that you can use as a shop sign. As a result, most signs have nothing to do with the trade practiced there. 

 

But really interesting all the same! :)

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 Well, I seem to remember, but I could be wrong, Hill had the sign of the Harp and Lute Boy over the house and on the label. In London such signs were plentiful and often dangerous (they kept falling off and hitting people). Lots of people were illiterate and house numbers simply did not exist. Signs were often the only way of finding houses and businesses. Just found this on Wikipedia:

The signs were a prominent feature of the streets of London at this period. (17th C.) But here and in other large towns they became a danger and a nuisance in the narrow ways. Already in 1669 a royal order had been directed in France against the excessive size of sign boards and their projection too far over the streets. In Paris in 1761 and in London about 1762-1773, laws were introduced which gradually compelled sign boards to be removed or fixed flat against the wall.

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On facade of my grandma’s house where I spent summer holidays when I was a child, there was Christogram ‘IHS’, and there was not any shop in there. All connotations of that symbol could be only religious and there is no chance that somebody can use it for marketing, particularly not in 18th century.

Question is why GdG had symbol of Jesus Christ  surmounted with Greek cross on his labels? To avoid having his instruments confused with those of his father? Perhaps…   

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On facade of my grandma’s house where I spent summer holidays when I was a child, there was Christogram ‘IHS’, and there was not any shop in there. All connotations of that symbol could be only religious and there is no chance that somebody can use it for marketing, particularly not in 18th century.

Question is why GdG had symbol of Jesus Christ  surmounted with Greek cross on his labels? To avoid having his instruments confused with those of his father? Perhaps…   

A Greek style cross ending in trefoils for 'del Gesù' but clearly not Jesuit as the three nails and the often present solar corona are missing. In addition the Jesuit cross is not in the Greek style as it has an elongated lower arm.

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Del Gesu's house still exists in Cremona and the IHS sign is still above the door. I'm not sure if it is original but... These signs were common before houses were numbered. John has written some interesting stuff about such signs in London. 

Roger, as far as I know the house may still exist within the boundaries of the suppressed parish of San Prospero but it has not been identified. The devotional christogram in terra-cotta can be seen all over Cremona in the old town. Likely it is nothing more than a devotional symbol to protect the household.

 

The church where 'del Gesù' was buried is now Bar Tubino on the corner of Corso Mazzini and Via Mercatello. If you ask the proprietor, you can go down stairs and I believe you are looking at the original brickwork vaults of the crypt of the church of San Prospero. Now it has been converted into a tearoom...... The former owner (now dead) told me that during the remodelling of the cellar that bones were found, mostly of children. He declared that the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage was not notified as it would have drastically slowed the construction of the tearoom.    :o  They may well have thrown away what remained of poor old 'del Gesù' with the rest of the rubble!!!

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 Well, I seem to remember, but I could be wrong, Hill had the sign of the Harp and Lute Boy over the house and on the label. In London such signs were plentiful and often dangerous (they kept falling off and hitting people). Lots of people were illiterate and house numbers simply did not exist. Signs were often the only way of finding houses and businesses. Just found this on Wikipedia:

The signs were a prominent feature of the streets of London at this period. (17th C.) But here and in other large towns they became a danger and a nuisance in the narrow ways. Already in 1669 a royal order had been directed in France against the excessive size of sign boards and their projection too far over the streets. In Paris in 1761 and in London about 1762-1773, laws were introduced which gradually compelled sign boards to be removed or fixed flat against the wall.

 

Joseph Hill did, and it became the letterhead of W.E. Hill & Sons... curiously the Harp and Hautboy, two musical instruments that Joseph Hill isn't exactly known for making. By corollary and by chance, one of the signs most appropriate to us still survives on Lombard Street in the City of London, the Cat and the Fiddle, but - typically, is in the banking district and always was, may have once been a pub of that name, but seems to derive from Caton le Fidele, the governor of Calais under Richard III's reign... um... (illustrated below)

 

In St Paul's Churchyard around 1685-1730ish you have Barak Norman at the sign of the Bass Viol, Meares at the Golden Viol in Leadenhall Street, and then the Golden Viol and Hautboy in St P C, Lewis at the sign of the Harp, John Hare at the Viol & Flute in Cornhill, and later the Bass Viol and Hautboy, John Barrett at the sign of the Harp and Crown in Piccadilly, there's a little list it carries on, oh and John Young, at the Dolphin and Crown - I can't work that one out either, but you can see it below - circa 1700ish!   :)

 

(FYI, a mythical/armorial dolphin is always a fish with a boars head - how else would you describe one to someone who had never seen one before???)

 

Hope that this usefully fills in some details :)

 

 

 

 

 

4832211243_6bac5081ef_z.jpgaap0007.jpg

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A Greek style cross ending in trefoils for 'del Gesù' but clearly not Jesuit as the three nails and the often present solar corona are missing. In addition the Jesuit cross is not in the Greek style as it has an elongated lower arm.

That is exactly what I wrote in my post no. 30 in this thread. I'll be very pleased to know your opinion about possible GdG connection with Dominicans in S. Domenico Convent situated next door to his house. 

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Bit of a moving target, this tread, from Guarneri 'f-holes' to Jesuit symbols.

 

The "IHS" certainly has a much wider currency than just the "Society of Jesus", 

being found to this day on catholic liturgical vestments and even stamped on altar bread.

 

Altar%20Bread%20wheat%201%201.2.jpg

 

I think I remember reading that Stradivari had connections with a women's religious order (one of his daughters) and possibly a son with the Augustinians. It would have been a fairly normally thing for a lot of larger families to have members in religion.

 

As for the 'f-holes' the instrument that scares me is the Duke of Orange ex-Wald of 1743-44.

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It appears that since the time of Saint Bernardino of Siena the table with the trigramma above the doors of the houses to be a common urban architecture decoration in many italian cities. No relation at all with the Society of Jesus.


 


...Merita poi osservazione quel misto di lettere greco-latine che si scorge nella Sigla IHS, per denotare il SS.° Nome di GESÙ'; dove la prima lettera I e insieme greca e latina, la seconda H è puramente greca (od è un E lunga); e l'ultima S è solamente latina. La qual Sigla è oggidì universale presso i Latini, che dippiù hanno aggiunta la Croce sopra l'H per farne il soavissimo Monogramma di cui fu speciale propagatore il celebre S. Bernardino da Siena, che se i Greci furono soliti nelle loro pitture più antiche di abbreviare lo stesso augusto Nome, e farne una Sigla colle due sole lettere greche prima ed ultima, cioè IC, per kacvC (Testo, pagg. 79, A,; è ugualmente certo eh' essi pure adoperarono la sigla IHS, come si vede in molte medaglie degl'Imperatori di Costantinopoli, da Giustiniano II ....


 


page 14 of the book below


 


http://books.google.it/books?id=_7zjJ3XyRg8C&printsec=frontcover&hl=it&output=text


 


At the same time many SJ's had major connection with the arts, many SJ's being musicians, luthiers and varnish makers. Another interesting fact (for me at least) are the accounts of missionaries bringing exotic resins  and balsams from distant lands to Italy to make varnish, medicines and such.


 


Sorry to diverge, interesting subject....back to Katarina.


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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...

 

There are certainly plenty of respected women in the field, past and present.  But it would be really hard to write something about women makers in the 1700s that were mostly undocumented...?  It's hard enough to figure out the truth from things that were documented, as we see here.

 

What about the role of children as well?

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Roger, as far as I know the house may still exist within the boundaries of the suppressed parish of San Prospero but it has not been identified. The devotional christogram in terra-cotta can be seen all over Cremona in the old town. Likely it is nothing more than a devotional symbol to protect the household.

 

The church where 'del Gesù' was buried is now Bar Tubino on the corner of Corso Mazzini and Via Mercatello. If you ask the proprietor, you can go down stairs and I believe you are looking at the original brickwork vaults of the crypt of the church of San Prospero. Now it has been converted into a tearoom...... The former owner (now dead) told me that during the remodelling of the cellar that bones were found, mostly of children. He declared that the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage was not notified as it would have drastically slowed the construction of the tearoom.    :o  They may well have thrown away what remained of poor old 'del Gesù' with the rest of the rubble!!!

 

I stand corrected. The house was pointed out to me some time ago by someone that I thought knew what they were taking about. Sorry! 

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There are certainly plenty of respected women in the field, past and present.  But it would be really hard to write something about women makers in the 1700s that were mostly undocumented...?  It's hard enough to figure out the truth from things that were documented, as we see here.

 

What about the role of children as well?

 

There couldn’t be more truth in each your word, except only small remark: the role of children is already included. To mention only Guarneris – Joseph and Peter, sons of Andrea, then again Peter and Joseph, sons of Joseph…only last Joseph, for some reason rejected to confess that father/son relation on his labels.   

 

Now, it is quite normal that various speculations and presumptions could be made upon documented facts, or upon lack of them even more, and there is nothing wrong with that. On the contrary, this is good and desirable phenomenon, because it could guide to new knowledge and discovery of new documents and facts, unless in a case when people start to imagine that their presumptions are real truth. Then things can turn beyond control, but this is on each “speculator” to be aware of the limits and to take his own, as well as others presumptions with a “grain of salt”

 

In that context, here is my presumption and I’ll be very glad to hear opinions on that:

 

Joseph Guarnerius, latter known as del Gesù used labels, besides for marking his instruments, also for some sort of communication, i.e. for transfer certain personal message(s) to potential recipients. He was doing that by using two, among the most significant religious symbols of the Roman Catholic Church.            

By doing that he established unusually interesting semiotic problem. The task to denote sign/symbol he used and discover its real meaning shows as a great challenge for everybody who likes riddles with a touch of mysteries. He left to future generations a sign and obligation to discover its ‘designata’, i.e. the message/information which his symbol denotes.

Do the respectable members of this forum feel challenged?       

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