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How did a reddish violin look when new in the 1690 - 1785 era - Cremona?


CarloBartolini
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Soon I will have to get my hands on two violins, my aspiration (long shot) is to imagine how a red violin look when new, and attempt that (I know, you can laugh, I do :rolleyes: ). Any information, ideas, abstract thinking, pictures of old, pictures of new violins one may think look similar to what a new violin looked back then, paintings and so on are appreciated. I am interested in the reddish cremonese violins.

 

Some thoughts:

 

-Wood lighter colored, no graying from uv and a little more towards the light golden? Perhaps this pict of a lignin stabilized pine with lignostab has any relevance? (if so, more contrast?)

-Varnish not as oxidized, paler colored?

-Red color brighter, stronger, deeper, and more illuminated?

-Varnish a little thicker? (before 250 years of shrinking)

 

Thank you in advance. :)

 

(I know color lightfastness behaves differently in wood+varnish+indoors+inside a case - than in cloths, but just for the spirit of inquiry)

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I messed with a pict of the Messie, does it seem in a good direction? (exaggerated?)

 

I know I will never be able to get the look by modifying a pict, but only an idea.

First pict non modified, second, lots of red.

 

Sorry I downloaded the pict from a link in MN a while ago not sure who posted, if anyone can help with the credit I'd appreciate it.

 

 

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Carlo,

You like the easy questions, eh?

 

Admitting we do not know, we can make some educated guesses.

 

The wood underneath the varnish would not have had the chance to react to UV or visible light, so though deeply reflective it would make the varnish appear more pale and pink/purple.

 

The reds would look fresh.  Deep color, not because they had not faded, but because they had not been worn with age.  The best sample I have seen is in the bottom of this thumbnail scratch on the back of the Betts.

 

The varnish would have all the texture of the wood and the application. Well polished, but not smooth.  Though the varnish does shrink with age, it is not a major factor in the appearance.

 

I look forward to working with you on this idea.

 

on we go,

Joe

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Carlo..have fun man,I did ,in fact I would take Joe's class every year if possible.great crew to.

  I have a crazy theory ...that because in Cremona 1700's no power or central air, modern insulation,humidity control,UV blocking windows ect. that makers would stay warm in winter,cutting rib stock ,carving plates,  assembling violins,basically moving and building, over the winter ,building a stockpile of in the white instruments, come summer there would be a clean sweep or spring cleaning ,the violins  would have been tanned ready for varnish.varnishing is easier in warm weather. come fall fitting and stringing,while it was still warm enough to do fine work. just a theory.

  I also think that they were well aware of ground coloring possibilities ,pitfalls and advantages, they did not have preconceived notions of what was "historically correct",only the idea of how to do "it" and so were free to do as they did, whether is was ammonia fuming, tincture staining , UV tanning , or rabbit poo tea ... the world may never know. :(  What we do know is that the ground,it's color ,it's texture,or lack of texture, it's optical properties, It's ability to isolate the wood ,have an overall effect, that in my mind practically trumps any varnish applied over the top.... as the old saying goes ..."you can put a lot of makeup on a pig.....and ya still got a pig.

  I also think that overall the clientele had a taste for bright color and flamboyant style,clothing paintings ,general embellishment.Subtle earth tones meant you could not afford new. So IF I were trying to persuade a potential customer that by virtue of varnish that mine were somehow "better" then I would be inclined to do as bright and pure a color as possible , given that there were no real "pure" color on the lakes,dyes or whatever, of the day one might lean toward having a bit of blue and black in the red mix to counter the pink tendency.   

Because of the transparent nature of varnish, RED is hard to get with a white /pale ground ,I've stripped a lot of pink varnish, what I have noticed is a darker ground ,almost a walnut color,show the red,remembering that we see the light not only reflecting off the varnish but through the varnish ,with the thickness' used on instruments (thin) I don't think a simple build up of red layers over a pale ground will do much good.

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Thank you Omobono, Joe, Kev and Mike. And thank you for taking the risk of answering such a question.

 

All great answers, making me think a lot, Kev you are right, I am working on some picts of the Lady's less worn parts, will be for about a week, not a pro and need to do is slow, next day's Blunt judgement is important for me. I am using the Betts scratch as a reference and considering all the tonalities and color elements Joe and Mike mentioned. (as if I even knew what I am doing in  PS Lightroom). Will post them when ready, along with any other ideas.

 

Thank you again. :)

 

Must say I am really looking forward to this, and to the workshop, it just seems like everyone who goes spends some precious days. And as Augustine of Hippo once said...if you lose the minute...

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Actually it is conceivable that some of these varnishes were quite garishly red and have since faded. Red was an extremely important status color, especially fabrics. Having said that, it is equally possible that many classical violins that appear red today, were not colored at all. On seeing a red Seraphin violin, Professor White at the national gallery in London was adamant that this was simply the result of oxidization. 

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 On seeing a red Seraphin violin, Professor White at the national gallery in London was adamant that this was simply the result of oxidization. 

Roger, That's intriguing. Generally things will go a duller shade with oxidization I would have thought rather than brighter, to lose color rather than gain it (wine, for instance). Could there be some metallic traces in that particular varnish to account for that? I'm certainly not a chemist.

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I posted some pictures of my Violin on here a while back (before I had it cleaned up) In some of the pics it looks particularly reddish. 

 

They are here:

 

http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/326179-my-violin-pre-restoration/

 

I don't think it would appear as reddish now, I must take some more up-to-date photos and see, I'll post some if you want.

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I know that we don't have an exact recipe for the varnish of Strad or del Gesu but are there any makers from the 18th century whose violins survive today and whose varnish recipe is completely known?  I imagine that if you used the same ingredients and recipe you'd get the same color.

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Roger, That's intriguing. Generally things will go a duller shade with oxidization I would have thought rather than brighter, to lose color rather than gain it (wine, for instance). Could there be some metallic traces in that particular varnish to account for that? I'm certainly not a chemist.

 Not quite, linseed oil based mediums certainly darken (oxidize). Depending on the mixture they usually become browner or redder. In Venice the oil used was probably walnut oil, but the same applies. However oil films become not only darker with age, they also become more transparent. This has been a problem in the past for painters because it occasionally causes background painting to show through the upper layers. I used to know the name for this phenomenon but I'm getting old. 

Rust is absolutely not the only thing which oxidizes. Most things do. But it is something to be wary of in varnishes. Cooking in iron pots and adding iron can look great at first, but it can eventually turn varnishes black. There are numerous German examples.  

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I agree that red oxide will only stay brown or get a darker shade with time due to further oxidation. But as R. Hargrave said, resin itself will oxidize and change color given enough time. the best way to see that is simply to melt some colophony and carefully add some drops of nitric acid (to speed up the oxidation process). the color will turn very reddish. But when applied on a violin in thin coat the color is again brownish rather than red.

However try to cook some colophony long enough to get a really dark brown resin and let it cool down. Break it into small pieces and look at the pieces. Inside them , like inside a diamond, you will see very red reflections. I think it has to see with the light diffraction at the place of micro cracks. It's a litte bit like glass. take a perfectly transparent glass and break it. then put back the pieces together. At the location of the cracks there is a color (blueish I would say but it can vary). Maybe the same s true for varnish layers.

Rust has never looked red to me. I see it brown and I don't think iron oxide can make a varnish red unless it's so concentrated that it becomes a paint.

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Certainly kinds of binders, heavy oils, mastic, and balsams mostly, seem to progress in the way Roger describes.  I'm not certain of the science, but my impression is that these binders progressively improve their 'wetting' of the particulate content (i.e. pigments) more and more with time and age.  This leads toward transparency, clarity, and a sort of deepening of color.

 

One the other hand, there are some resins that don't necessarily progress in this direction. I think Sandarac and shellac are examples that can sometimes move in the opposite direction with time, becoming less attached and wetting of the particles.  Thus a varnish based too completely on solvent and these sorts of resins will not necessarily progress in the direction of clarity.

 

Also, drying oils can be tricky.   A smallish amount of oil in the composition leads toward the wetting and clarity effect.  But under other conditions, perhaps too much oil content or poorly cooked or poorly siccative, and oil can head in a different direction and get gummy and dirty with age.

 

You can also bring a little more of this clarifying behavior into a spirit varnish by mixing in a small amount of thinned oil varnish for example.

 

 

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I would be concerned about particle size ...I see they don't list it.

  This past summer I spent a few weeks re roofing my parents home , made of white pine, having read Rogers Big Bass Blog,and having the thought of white pine resin in my head , it was a pleasant surprise when I pulled an old white pine roof board up and found BEAUTIFUL ruby red drops of resin collected over a thirty five year time laps ,scattered about  the  cavity underneath the knotty sections of the boards......!  Naturally every time I saw them  I'd take a break and carefully gather them up .feeling quite geeky yet somehow proud of my little drops ,  I gathered the raw white pine ..clear or white , and performed a long,(one week) low cook( just bairly wisping of smoke or not quite) and the colors came out ...exactly the same! Bingo!.Now they have both been turned into a lightly limed rosin for varnish ,the finished varnish has a amber look with red tones,and seems to feel right. , Thanks BIG BASS BLOG.for the inspiration.

 As for What New looked like in 1700 , Imagining traveling to this city for the purpose of acquiring a  violin, a violin to grace the halls of the Medici   ,looking to please a patron, perhaps as an emissary, would not it be most pleasing to see RED and AMBER and PURPLE...?   The old adage of "the customer is always right" is just as true today as it was in 1700, market always drives production, WE ALSO KNOW THAT VIOLIN MAKING IS/ WAS A COMPETITIVE SPORT of sorts driving new and creative ways of achieving market value. Hard as it might be to improve a near perfect form ,every great maker eventually, changed some aspect of the work from their predecessors, be it though FF design  arching cbout , much as in guitar making today. :ph34r: It becomes a small leap in my small brain to see many brightly colored violins hanging in DGU's  Strad's and others shops , almost unrecognizable to the same eyes three hundred years latter.

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"ULTRAMARINE BLUE: Ultramarine blue is a pigment which existed in ancient times, but was also used in the Early Modern period. This pigment was highly valued, largely because true ultramarine blue is created with ground lapis lazuli stone.

The ground stone is purified with multiple washings and then bonded with oil using a hand mulling process.

 

Since the early nineteenth century, however, ultramarine blue is only created through a synthetic process.

Renaissance and Baroque artists, including Vermeer (see image below) used true ultramarine blue. The vibrant blue of the kitchen maid’s wrap is a great example of the brilliant color found in this type of pigment. True ultramarine was expensive, and sometimes Renaissance artists would resort to using azurite blue instead."

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Could something like this be done with a red oxide?

I wish sometimes that violins were blue!

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"ULTRAMARINE BLUE: Ultramarine blue is a pigment which existed in ancient times, but was also used in the Early Modern period. This pigment was highly valued, largely because true ultramarine blue is created with ground lapis lazuli stone.

The ground stone is purified with multiple washings and then bonded with oil using a hand mulling process.

 

Since the early nineteenth century, however, ultramarine blue is only created through a synthetic process.

Renaissance and Baroque artists, including Vermeer (see image below) used true ultramarine blue. The vibrant blue of the kitchen maid’s wrap is a great example of the brilliant color found in this type of pigment. True ultramarine was expensive, and sometimes Renaissance artists would resort to using azurite blue instead."

attachicon.gifVermeer-Woman-Pouring-Milk-The-Kitchen-Maid-c_-1660-480x537.jpg

Could something like this be done with a red oxide?

I wish sometimes that violins were blue!

sure, one thing I did with some local hematite ...from a MN post suggestion BTW...was to take a coarse ground hematite red powder and mix with water ...the water formed a bright blood red ,quite quickly the big bits will settle out , pouring off and saving the red water now I had a much finer separation ,upon heating and driving off the water I was left with an exceedingly fine powder. very little of it but what was there was as I said very fine ...talc like ,slippery when wet. mixed with oil and scmeared on a board and left outside ,we are now in the test phase.

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 Not quite, linseed oil based mediums certainly darken (oxidize). Depending on the mixture they usually become browner or redder. In Venice the oil used was probably walnut oil, but the same applies. However oil films become not only darker with age, they also become more transparent. This has been a problem in the past for painters because it occasionally causes background painting to show through the upper layers. I used to know the name for this phenomenon but I'm getting old. 

Rust is absolutely not the only thing which oxidizes. Most things do. But it is something to be wary of in varnishes. Cooking in iron pots and adding iron can look great at first, but it can eventually turn varnishes black. There are numerous German examples.  

Pentimento

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However oil films become not only darker with age, they also become more transparent. This has been a problem in the past for painters because it occasionally causes background painting to show through the upper layers.

The refractive index of drying oils increases with age.

Occlusion of the underlying surface relies on a difference between the refractive index of the medium (binder), and the pigment. With age, the RI of the binder gets closer to that of the pigment. Voila, greater transparency! That's the semi-technical explanation, in case it's of use to anyone.

 

I'm guessing that some of the original Cremonese varnishes were rather garishly red, by today's standards. Maybe the Amatis were an exception, or maybe they just hadn't figured out how to produce some more enduring colors yet.

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Fascinating stuff, both the chemistry lesson and the social history of instruments.

Thanks for the input.

Illuminating.

I'm thinking that they say much of the classical statuary we see as bleached white marble today

was also originally brightly painted over. It would be seen also as garish by today's tastes.

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 Cooking in iron pots and adding iron can look great at first, but it can eventually turn varnishes black. There are numerous German examples.

That could be the explanation for some fiddles I have seen where I just presumed they had an overlay of dark lacquer at a later date. One I remember in particular was very dark but revealed brilliant orange color where it had been worn. It puzzled me.

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