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


CarloBartolini
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To those who have worked on these instruments, I wonder how any drips/runs on the inside look compared to surface varnish, I assume some of the internal drips color would be closer to original based on no uv exposure?

 

Great question! No wonder it's been ignored ;-)

 

Take a look at more  images of the interior of the Del Gesu exPaganini Il Cannone (scroll down page)

 

Here's one.... the varnish or color is water thin! most probably a tincture.

 

guarn_icoendo03.jpg

 

 

 

Oded

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Great question! No wonder it's been ignored ;-)

 

Take a look at more  images of the interior of the Del Gesu exPaganini Il Cannone (scroll down page)

 

Here's one.... the varnish or color is water thin! most probably a tincture.

 

guarn_icoendo03.jpg

 

 

 

Oded

Hi Oded

I was trying to remember who posted that pic and used the tincture.    I've always thought that the problem with that pic is that it while there is some kind of run or drip on the inside but it doesn't look like a color. 

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It just looks like sort of a nondescript brownish stain.   I don't see red or some other color.  It could be a colorless clear coat that makes the wood look 'wet' for example. 

 

Do you see a color there? 

 

I do like the tincture idea though, does the color actually get into the varnish layer not just lay on top of it?

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Many great pics have appeared on the web and MN.

 

The Cannone pics unfortunately are poorly lit and therefore the color is desaturated and difficult to judge.

 

The kind of pics you're asking for are rare as far as I can find. Other pics showing color without a varnish cover:

 

post-30802-0-48521200-1393205835_thumb.jpg

Del Gesu  Chardon   http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/326541-black-paint-in-f-holes-and-scroll-box/page-2#entry552108

 

 

post-30802-0-31015700-1393205925_thumb.jpg

Bergonzi Cello.   Sorry I couldn't identify a source on this one.  Maybe Joe??

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So, if I understand correctly, amber was being used by varnish makers by the beginning of the 18th century? And that research hasn't revealed any traces of amber in musical instrument varnishes? Do you have a published reference source, or an online link where I can read up on the subject further?  Thanks, JoeG.

 

JoeG,

If you want to read more on amber and historical references and recipes, "Lost Secrets of Flemish Painting" by Donald C. Fels is worth reading.  (See here: http://www.amazon.com/Lost-secrets-Flemish-painting-translation/dp/0971650004 )

Chapter 10 "Arguments for Amber's Past Use in Making Varnishes" is particularly relevant.

 

John

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Thank you, John, for the link.

 

JoeG,

I forgot to mention that amber has been positively identified in a painting by Ferdinand Bol titled "Portrait of a Young Lady with a Fan" which dates from the mid to late 1640s.  If you google Ferdinand Bol amber you should see an .rtf file titled "Rembrandt and his Circle: Seventeenth-Century Dutch Paint Media Re-examined" that can be downloaded.  This gives more detail.

 

John

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The Cannone pics unfortunately are poorly lit and therefore the color is desaturated and difficult to judge.

 

The kind of pics you're asking for are rare as far as I can find. Other pics showing color without a varnish cover:

 

 

 

Unfortunately you've completely missed the point.

 

Here is clear evidence, from one of the mostly pristine preserved examples, of how the Cremonese colored their violins. It doesn't matter that the photo isn't well lit and the color is difficult to discern. The important thing is the inescapable evidence that a thin, tincture like liquid was applied to the instrument at some point. Oh, maybe it isn't the red color but   only   the    ground   color. OK I'll take that. :mellow:  :)  

 

Given how little we really know about Cremonese varnishing technique, I'm always floored by the fact that this amazing photo has been largely ignored. 

 

Oded

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I thought you were showing that picture as evidence of a colored tincture applied to the varnish but I couldn't see color in it so maybe it is something else, it is certainly something anyway, could be a grounding stain under the varnish as you suggest.

I do think that a tincture can be applied over an oil varnish and the color will be incorporated into it (not just on the surface) . I've been doing that for some time now. Of course the oil varnish has to react in the correct wayto the tincture or there it will strip it right off the instrument. :-(

But when it works it can result in a perfectly transparent highly colored oil varnish.

while thecolor in the photo is hard to distinguish, it does seem clear to me that it contains a lot of color.

oded

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Unfortunately you've completely missed the point.

 

Here is clear evidence, from one of the mostly pristine preserved examples, of how the Cremonese colored their violins. It doesn't matter that the photo isn't well lit and the color is difficult to discern. The important thing is the inescapable evidence that a thin, tincture like liquid was applied to the instrument at some point. Oh, maybe it isn't the red color but   only   the    ground   color. OK I'll take that. :mellow:  :)  

 

Given how little we really know about Cremonese varnishing technique, I'm always floored by the fact that this amazing photo has been largely ignored. 

 

Oded

 

Sorry I wasn't clearer, Oded.   I agree with your understanding of the image.  My was attempting address the earlier posted concern that the drips didn't looked much colored.  I think that is only an effect of the low lighting.  

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I think that the problem in identifying amber is that some classes of amber don't contain succinic acid which is usually the key signature of varnish containing amber. the other components can be shared by other "resin".

 

Robertdo,

I agree, at least in terms of identifying amber resin using an enclosed analytical system.

 

Amber within an oil varnish is more problematic.  Given the relatively low boiling point of succinic acid (235 °C.), running amber in an open pot would likely eliminate any presence.

 

It seems that the presence of methyl Δ8-isopimarate (as found in a painting by Ferdinand Bol) may be the only reliable indicator of amber within a varnish/paint sample.  However, as Raymond White has pointed out, “Amber has a very low amount of characteristic diterpenoids, the major component of which is Δ 8-isopimaric acid. In favourable cases this might still just show up. However, if amber were incorporated with just one tenth of its weight of rosin, the latter’s diterpenoids would swamp those of the amber.”  (Raymond White: “Eighteenth Century Instruments Examined”, The Strad, August 1984, pp.258-259.)  From what I read, colophony was often added when running amber.  If this is so, or a sample were to include any colophony from an adjacent layer, identifying any amber presence will likely not be possible.

 

John

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John,

Your take on the varnish analysis is VERY interesting.  Raymond White's opinion is to be respected. 

No doubt that there is no ONE Cremonese varnish..though the best definitely have a lot in common.  We need to believe our own eyes.

Some instruments stand out as different from the Strad, Guadagnini, Bergonzi, del Gesu varnishes...and they are certainly not all the "same".. 

The one that comes to mind is Yoyo Ma's Montagnana cello [1733?].  I had this instrument in my lap under good light for about an hour years back.

There was a thin fragility and greenish undertone which made me think it could be an amber varnish.

 

on we go,

Joe

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Joe,

 

Perhaps your observations are commensurate with the 'surface preparation' S. F. Sacconi observed, which may be more highly visible under UV?

This phenomena will show up even in daylight, when a UV light source is held close to the surface of many Italian instruments, will it not?  (edit)

 

Here's a Cozio link to a rather interesting example of a greenish ground. http://www.cozio.com/instrument.aspx?id=9177

 

JoeG

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John,

Your take on the varnish analysis is VERY interesting.  Raymond White's opinion is to be respected. 

No doubt that there is no ONE Cremonese varnish..though the best definitely have a lot in common.  We need to believe our own eyes.

Some instruments stand out as different from the Strad, Guadagnini, Bergonzi, del Gesu varnishes...and they are certainly not all the "same".. 

The one that comes to mind is Yoyo Ma's Montagnana cello [1733?].  I had this instrument in my lap under good light for about an hour years back.

There was a thin fragility and greenish undertone which made me think it could be an amber varnish.

 

on we go,

Joe

 

Joe,

Your comments regarding Cremonese varnish make a lot of sense to me.

 

In terms of Venetian varnish, I vaguely recall reading somewhere of a Venetian varnish maker or colour vendor supplying varnish (Maybe amber???) to lute makers but unfortunately can't find this reference.  The best that I have found after a brief search is a comment in Eastlake that states "the painter Gentileschi tells us that in his time all the colour-vendors in Italy sold the amber varnish used by the varnishers of lutes."

 

I am not sure whether amber is a genuine contender or not with respect to any of these varnishes.  The jury would still seem to be out. 

 

I am vaguely intrigued with how amber varnishes seem to fluoresce under UV.  This often seems closer to the floury yellow I have seen on old Cremonese compared to how various Pinaceae resin varnishes I have made fluoresce.  If amber was part of the first varnish layer(s) versus upper layer(s), it might partially explain those cases where the lower layer seems to have survived a little better.  (See attached photo.)  Alternatively, this might simply be due to the first layer(s) being thicker in such cases or not being packed with pigment etc..

 

John

 

post-24896-0-30772300-1393300553_thumb.jpg

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Amber varnish in Italy at the time usually meant the same as the printer's varnish, which appears to have been originated with the Turks, the Turks mixed colors with this varnish and covered arcs, brass lanterns and many other things. In reality it is a Greek Pitch + Linseed Oil varnish which contains no Amber. Old text says for varnish making to use Greek Pitch which has a similar color to Amber that is why it is called Amber Varnish.

 

Of course they used to make varnish with Amber, but usually when Amber varnish is mentioned in italian recipes of the time - such as to aid in the fusion of Copal or Karab (Amber) -  it means a Greek Pitch varnish.

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So the question then becomes, does amber add some quality to the varnish that other resins doesn't have that would justify its presence? I would think that amber was quite expensive then as it is now. If it does, then the Amatis could certainly afford such varnish because they probably only used the best materials.

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I would be surprised indeed to learn that the color "amber" always relates to the resin amber. this can't be since the color is nothing special and amber resin comes in many different shades. You can most likely cook colophony to get many different shades of golden yellow, amber or brown.

Remembering discussions we had here about varnish, the main argument for the presence of some amber varnish was that the "ground" of Cremonese varnish seemed to be much harder and resistant to wear and solvants that the average sap varnish. Given that amber varnish has this reputation of being very resistant (and given that the ground is usually described as golden yellow) the presence of amber was a possibility. Hard data for this presence however is very scarce or even non existant.

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Greek because it comes from Magna Graecia, I am not sure if all rosins fall into that category or tree species, or the manner it should be prepared.....these names can drive us crazy....I have not been researching long enough to fully understand them (most likely never will).....sometimes I think I understood the meaning of one, and one year later I find out it is something else....like the Amber Varnish....I was thinking for the longest time they used varnish made of Amber to fuse Copal, and it was not ....hahaha....Antimony is another one.... Sandarac....Copal..Acqua Fortis...and the list goes on and on and on and on...

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