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Julian Cossmann Cooke

January issue of The Strad: Asymmetry of Strad's scrolls

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Interesting article.  Lots of speculation -- comes with the territory since none of us was there when Strad was working.  My question is this.  If, as the author suggests, the asymmetries may have been deliberate, doesn't the proof lie in the ability at least to theorize as to how the individual asymmetries interact in the viewer's eye and brain to create the boldness and dynamism cited by the author?   

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I never fail to be impressed by the superb illustrations that accompany the superb written information by Roger... 

It's like - the subject is always taken down to its very basic level, and yet, the information is always yards ahead of the usual casual observation, and delves into the mindset and the making minutia of the makers cited or illustrated... 

Roger, I think that you see things that pass most of most of us by, and then put those things down on paper for us to examine and contemplate - if not imitate in our own work.

Yes, I agree, thanks so much.

Interesting as always.

When I read your writing, I always become fully immersed in the subject matter.

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 Lots of speculation  

 

Yep, and not enough discussion given to the "Oh sh%%t, I went a little too deep.  I should have left Mrs Strad alone last night" or "Sh%%t, that gouge went a little too deep.  I shouldn't have had that unrefined grappa last night"

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Jules, I don't know if deliberate is the right word. When I stopped using using the methods we learned at school, and started carving scrolls entire, instead of volute by volute, all of my scroll heads lean to the treble side, because of my right-handed aggression. No matter what model, my scrolls come out in similar character.

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Also, this sort of thing naturally arises if you set one side of the volute interms of portions between each curve, and then make the other side to simple follow fairly level across.  You can also see that often one side of the volute has a 'cleaner' truer look.  I took the asymmetry noted in the article, and the frequently character difference in the two sides to mean they likely worked to design/plan on one side, and as a 'follow' on the other.

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As I read that article I had the feeling that the author was not someone who had ever had to get a scroll carved by lunch time or his coworkers would have eaten the entire pizza. It seems very unlikely that Strad would have deliberately planned imperfections in his work and much more likely that they didn't bother him much.

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As I read that article I had the feeling that the author was not someone who had ever had to get a scroll carved by lunch time or his coworkers would have eaten the entire pizza. It seems very unlikely that Strad would have deliberately planned imperfections in his work and much more likely that they didn't bother him much.

Yes.  :)

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I still have not received my January Strad, but just from observation, many of the Strad families scrolls have a bump and a distinct flat above the throat. This was almost certainly caused, either by the process of blending the chamfer of the scroll turns with the chamfer of the head outline and/or being a little over enthusiastic when cutting the fluting above the throat with a knife. Since this feature is not always present, I doubt it was deliberate.

The oval shape of the scrolls could have been the result of several things. Lighting in particular springs to mind. We have the advantage of directional lights that can be adjusted. Antonio lived only in two houses and for most of the time only in one. Perhaps, when cutting scrolls, the family sat at the same window using the same light source. So that one side of the scroll has an oval in one direction and on the other side the oval runs in the opposite direction. Just a thought.

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I still have not received my January Strad, but just from observation, many of the Strad families scrolls have a bump and a distinct flat above the throat. This was almost certainly caused, either by the process of blending the chamfer of the scroll turns with the chamfer of the head outline and/or being a little over enthusiastic when cutting the fluting above the throat with a knife. Since this feature is not always present, I doubt it was deliberate.

The oval shape of the scrolls could have been the result of several things. Lighting in particular springs to mind. We have the advantage of directional lights that can be adjusted. Antonio lived only in two houses and for most of the time only in one. Perhaps, when cutting scrolls, the family sat at the same window using the same light source. So that one side of the scroll has an oval in one direction and on the other side the oval runs in the opposite direction. Just a thought.

Sacconi spoke of lighting being a possible cause of asymmetry in his book The "Secrets" of Stradivari published in 1972. English edition 1979.

 

I've always thought it could have to do with the two spirals turning in the opposite direction as well, for relative ease of carving.

 

Some of the features of asymmetry I expect to see such as the wider fluting and the different angle of the spiral on the treble side of the volute as it rises toward the eye. It's almost a signature. It makes the whole spiral on the bass side of the volute, in the front view, look as though it were flatter or more compressed in relation to the treble side which is more elongated.

 

The way in which the spiral joins the eye (or the ear) of the scroll is often clearly different.

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