Serious question about Del Gesu


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There it is. I sure missed you, LinkMan. Can someone tell me if VSA members get printable pdfs of all journal issues?

Eta: no one? Why? I have to call up the VSA to ask? I like reading articles and such on paper, ok? I didn't think it was an outrageous question.

 

I'm not a member (yet).  When you log on, you can view the articles, right?  In that case, you can just print them out.

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It's important to put del Gesu's late work in the context of his earlier work. Look at the "Violon de Diable", "Rode", or the "Plowden" (pictured below). They are easily as refined and clean as anything ever made in Cremona.attachicon.gifimage.jpg

I guess Stradivari is not so bad.

:^)

Viotti-Bruce 1709

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You appear to have a stunning photographic archive. My stuff is mostly non digital, it is such fun being able to reproduce these images quickly and efficiently and to blow them up until I feel like an ant walking on the surface. Of course these things must be handled with care. These days it is very easy to take small areas and mix and match them until they resemble one another, but the similarities are stunning and in so many ways. If you did the same with a Vuillaume copy of a Strad today it would not have that same magical look, whereas on photographs made only 30 years ago would have appeared almost identical. A quarter of a century separates the Plowden and the Viotti violins, but the unmistakable Cremonese hallmarks still shine through. Unmistakable and so far at least, impossible to replicate.

The ability to compare and sort digital images quickly is amazing and very illuminating. You can virtually have all the work of Stradivari etc. in your hand at a moments notice and ask questions of yourself that you may not think of when you have them in person. Your comments about Vuillaume and Stradivari are so true.

As Peter says, Google is a great tool. The Plowden image I had but I remembered seeing all those Stradivari corners in Chris Reuning's article. So a quick search and I picked out one that felt similar. I still think that Guarneri del Gesu sometimes has a quiet elegance, that is a summation of 200 years of Amati tradition, that Stradivari doesn't quite achieve (exaggeration for the sake of controversy!). Stradivari has the ambition of new money while Guarneri is a peer of the realm. Just one man's musings.

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Great comparison there.  Would you say that those are "representative" samples of the difference in the density / saturation of color of each maker, or is there too much variation in each one's instruments to think that way?

Yes, I would say those are representative of each at the top of their form.

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The ability to compare and sort digital images quickly is amazing and very illuminating. You can virtually have all the work of Stradivari etc. in your hand at a moments notice and ask questions of yourself that you may not think of when you have them in person. Your comments about Vuillaume and Stradivari are so true.

As Peter says, Google is a great tool. The Plowden image I had but I remembered seeing all those Stradivari corners in Chris Reuning's article. So a quick search and I picked out one that felt similar. I still think that Guarneri del Gesu sometimes has a quiet elegance, that is a summation of 200 years of Amati tradition, that Stradivari doesn't quite achieve (exaggeration for the sake of controversy!). Stradivari has the ambition of new money while Guarneri is a peer of the realm. Just one man's musings.

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Fundamentally they are different. For me there is a stiffness in Stradivari and a flexibility in GdG. I mean this both philosophically and creatively. We admire Guarneri del Gesu for the diversity of output (all from a single mould and set of templates-as Roger has so well explained in his writings) in his 15 year career. While we admire Stradivari for the consistency of his output over his 60 year career. Stradivari essentially made the same violin over and over while GdG made each one different (exaggeration).

This could be explained in part by the fact that Stradivari ran a highly disciplined and productive workshop while GdG as a one man shop could more easily follow his muse.

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I'm not a member (yet).  When you log on, you can view the articles, right?  In that case, you can just print them out.

I don't know. They might be files that can't be printed. I'm not a member either. Funny story how my hubby came to own nearly the whole catalog of VSA journals...ah well never mind. I know my husband wouldn't like me to repeat it but it's hilarious.

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I don't know. They might be files that can't be printed. I'm not a member either. Funny story how my hubby came to own nearly the whole catalog of VSA journals...ah well never mind. I know my husband wouldn't like me to repeat it but it's hilarious.

 

Who is your husband, BTW? :D

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I still think that Guarneri del Gesu sometimes has a quiet elegance, that is a summation of 200 years of Amati tradition, that Stradivari doesn't quite achieve (exaggeration for the sake of controversy!). Stradivari has the ambition of new money while Guarneri is a peer of the realm. Just one man's musings.

attachicon.gifimage.jpgattachicon.gifimage.jpg

 

Oh yes, I think you got that right.

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It's important to put del Gesu's late work in the context of his earlier work. Look at the "Violon de Diable", "Rode", or the "Plowden" (pictured below). They are easily as refined and clean as anything ever made in Cremona.attachicon.gifimage.jpg

My bad. As pointed out by John Harte this is the d'Egville not the Plowden. Right next to each other in my archive.

:^(

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Hey I didn't notice that either and I even looked through my files and found the right one. So much for expertise. I blame it on old age, too many pictures and writing my MN comments in bed after midnight.

I couldn't find a smiley face that looked embarrassed enough.  

smokey-and-the-bandit-11.png?w=618

 

 

 

shy-whistler.gif

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 I still think that Guarneri del Gesu sometimes has a quiet elegance, that is a summation of 200 years of Amati tradition, that Stradivari doesn't quite achieve (exaggeration for the sake of controversy!). Stradivari has the ambition of new money while Guarneri is a peer of the realm. Just one man's musings.

 

 

 

Oh yes, I think you got that right.

 

One could make a case that Stradivari and his shop was the outsider in Cremona, not  integrated into the co-operative fraternity of violin makers that Nicolo Amati, Andrea Guarneri, and Francesco Rugeri shops formed.

 

The friendly interaction, both professional and social, between the shops of Nicolo Amati,  Andrea Guarneri and Francesco Rugeri seems fairly well documented.   The young Andrea Guarneri is documented as living in the Nicolo Amati household, presumably as an apprentice. The Hills believe Andrea Guarneri and Francesco Rugeri made complete violins for the Nicolo Amati shop after Andrea and Francesco were independent makers.  There were a couple of god-father/god-son relationships between the Amati family and the Rugeris.  Andrea Guarneri was the heir apparent for the Amati shop until Hieronymus II came along.

 

Stradivari doesn't seem to be a part of this close group.  Here's some evidence:

 

1. As Beare points out, only once, in the 1660s, did Stradivari, on a violin label, claim to be a pupil of Amati.  After that violin, no such claim occurs, although it would have been to Stradivari's commercial advantage to continue such a claim.  Beare suggests that Amati might have put a stop to any such claim, because it wasn't true.   

 

2. There's evidence that the young Stradivari was trained as a wood carver, not a violin maker.  He thus, from the standpoint of training, would have been an outsider to the violin community.

 

3. The Hills are hard pressed to find the hand of Stradivari in the output of the Amati shop, while the work of Andrea Guarneri and Francesco Rugeri are, supposedly, quite apparent.

 

4.  The Hills make a point of noting that just about every violin maker in 17th and 18th century Italy was influenced somewhat and at some time by Stainer; even the Guarneris were.  The exception, the Hills note, was Stradivari who would have nothing to do with the Stainer model.  Stradivari clearly had an independent streak, comfortable with going his own way.

 

5. This is a personal observation from me based on looking at photos of Strad violins from the 1660s and 1670s, and thus is worth only as much as my rather untrained observations are worth:  It looks to me like those very early Strads, even though they are supposed to be Amatise, already look different in outline from Amati, Andrea Guarneri, and Francesco Rugeri.  The Strad corners are hooked more.

 

So, Stradivari was the outsider in Cremona until the decline of the Amati shop when Stradivari became the predominant shop around 1700. After that, in a few decades, the direct descendents of the Amati shop, the Guarneris, would be influenced, to some degree, by the once ousider now predominant force, Stradivari.

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[...] Stradivari essentially made the same violin over and over while GdG made each one different (exaggeration).

[...]

 

I can easily agree with almost all you've been saying, except this bit.   I think Strad shows constant experimentation throughout his career.  I would say that continous experimentation is evident in Ruggieri, Amati family, Guarnerni family, Strad, and Bergonzi.  I think it's almost characteristic of Cremona work that they understood their principles well enough to toy with them.  But all of the work, including the comparatively outsider aspects of Strad and late Del Gesu's wildness, all of it plays only with variations within a larger generally consistent system that that keeps the basics secure.  

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A very nice summary from Skiingfiddler with a good top up from David. However, I am not convinced by point number 4. As the influence, of Cremona’s violinmakers spread, initially three great factions developed. These were the followers of the Brothers and Nicola Amati, who were succeed by Jacobus Stainer, and later Antonio Stradivari. Others Cremonese masters had a minor influence from time to time, but through the 17th and 18th centuries, it was these makers who lead the field. Only much later were they joined by Guarneri del Gesu. In due course no important group or individual maker remained unaffected.

 

Understandably, the Amatis chiefly represented by the brothers Antonio and Hieronymus and later by Nicola, were the first undisputed leaders of violin making in Europe. Their fame was enormous and long lasting, and they were soon copied, and even counterfeited. Apart from those individual makers who were taught, either directly or indirectly by Nicola in Cremona, the Amatis' works greatly influenced the Italian schools of Florence, Venice, Turin, Milan, Padua, Bolzano and Bologna. Outside of Italy they motivated makers in the Tyrol and the Low Countries and later, towards the end of the 18th century, in England. It was only with the increasing vogue for Stainer’s instruments that the Amati star was eventually eclipsed.

 

The place of Jacobus Stainer apprenticeship is uncertain. However his period and his use of the Cremonese method places him firmly in the Cremonese circle of Nicola Amati. In the beginning he closely followed the Amati method and model. He even adopted many of their stylistic traits. However, while his later works retained their dependency upon the Amati method, their appearance was transformed by his own stylistic development. It is true that eventually Stainer’s fame outstripped that of the Amati family. However, unlike Amati, Stainer’s influence was largely indirect. Stainer professed to have taught no one. The response of other makers to the public's demand for Stainer instruments was therefore, all the more astonishing. In Italy, his model penetrated every important centre of violin making, with the exceptions of Brescia, Milan and to my mind, Cremona. Any apparent influence in Cremona was because Stainer himself based his works on those of the Amati family. One possible exception that is talked about is Del Gesu's use of a short stop, which may have been the result of Stainer's influence, but quite honestly, nothing else fits the picture. Del Gesu's link is definitely with the Amati method via his father and grandfather.

 

The list of Italian makers who appear to have adopted Stainer's model is seemingly endless, it includes: in Naples Thomas Eberle; in Rome Platner, Techler, Emiliani and Gigli; in Venice, Gobbetti, Goffriller, Carlo Tononi, Montagnana and Seraphin; in Bologna Guiadantus and Marchi; in Florence Carcassi and Gabrielli.

 

With the exception of the Klotz family in Mittenwald, who alone remained faithful to the Amati ideal, Stainer's influence in Germany and Austria was almost ubiquitous. A typical scenario in the Low Countries was that of Hendrich Jacobs and his pupil Rombouts working in Amsterdam. Jacobs built beautiful instruments after the Amati pattern, but Rombouts gradually adopted the more popular Stainer model.

 

Perhaps because Stainer taught no one directly, his influence was always that much weaker. His patterns were often copied and re-copied to the point of caricature. In England, the effect of ‘Stainerisation’ was perhaps the most devastating. Daniel Parker's outstanding copies of Stradivari, should have laid the foundations of a great English school, unfortunately it did not. Almost every 18th century English violin is a copy of a Stainer or an Amati, with some makers, like Dodd, alternating between one and the other their entire working lives.

 

With a few notable exceptions it was not until the 19th century, when the French rediscovered the classical Italian school that Stainer’s influence waned. From this moment it was Antonio Stradivari who inspired the majority of violinmakers. Unlike Stainer, (his claim) Stradivari had pupils. He was directly responsible for the teaching of his two sons Omobono and Francesco, and probably a host of others. Although several makers claimed to be ‘alumnus Antonius Stradivarius’, to date no documentary sources have confirmed their association with his workshop. Only time, and considerable luck, will reveal who if any worked for or with Stradivari.

 

As for who taught Stradivari, my money would be on Francesco Rugeri. Strads early works have more in common with Rugeri than Amati, even though Amati was clearly the root of both.

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You can view the VSA Journals online with a membership.  I was just looking at the one mentioned that was written by Ziggy.  I had no idea who Ziggy was!  All I kept thinking is "Ziggy played guitar."  That's the way my mind works; song lyrics. He is Sam Zigmuntowicz, who I saw on How to Hot Rod a Violin on PBS.  I just scrolled through it; 35 pages that looks like it will be really good learning.  Looks like it runs $35 to ship a printed version.  Very cool.

Ken

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I can easily agree with almost all you've been saying, except this bit. I think Strad shows constant experimentation throughout his career. I would say that continous experimentation is evident in Ruggieri, Amati family, Guarnerni family, Strad, and Bergonzi. I think it's almost characteristic of Cremona work that they understood their principles well enough to toy with them. But all of the work, including the comparatively outsider aspects of Strad and late Del Gesu's wildness, all of it plays only with variations within a larger generally consistent system that that keeps the basics secure.

Personally I would divide Stradivari's work into thre groups.

1. 1666-1690 Amati period. Amati copies.

2. 1689 1700 experiments with original models PG 1689, B 1692 Long pattern.

3. 1700-1737 settles down to making violins with his sons Francesco 1671-1743 and Omobono 1679-1742.. A lot of violins. Principally on three forms. PG 1689, P 1705, G 1708.

While the work does change over the course of the 60+ years it is very gradual and not at all radical.

I'm on the train right now but I will later today post photos of each decade to illustrate my point

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4.  The Hills make a point of noting that just about every violin maker in 17th and 18th century Italy was influenced somewhat and at some time by Stainer; even the Guarneris were.  The exception, the Hills note, was Stradivari who would have nothing to do with the Stainer model.  Stradivari clearly had an independent streak, comfortable with going his own way.

 

 

 

 I am not convinced by point number 4.

.

.

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Any apparent influence in Cremona was because Stainer himself based his works on those of the Amati family. One possible exception that is talked about is Del Gesu's use of a short stop, which may have been the result of Stainer's influence, but quite honestly, nothing else fits the picture. Del Gesu's link is definitely with the Amati method via his father and grandfather.

 

The list of Italian makers who appear to have adopted Stainer's model is seemingly endless, it includes: in Naples Thomas Eberle; in Rome Platner, Techler, Emiliani and Gigli; in Venice, Gobbetti, Goffriller, Carlo Tononi, Montagnana and Seraphin; in Bologna Guiadantus and Marchi; in Florence Carcassi and Gabrielli.

 

Roger,

 

Your clarification of Stainer's role in Italian violin making is very illuminating.  I always learn a lot from your extended posts.  Clearly Stainer was a strong influence.

 

In support of my assertion (point 4) that the Hills saw a Stainer influence in Cremona, but not in Stradivari, I can offer only the text from which point 4 came (Hill, The Violin Makers of the Guarneri Family, 1989 Dover edition of 1931 original edition, p 33):

 

On that page, the Hills are discussing the influence of Stainer on Pietro Guarneri of Mantua.  They make a rather broad statement about Stainer's influence after suggesting that Pietro, as a player, might have been "captivated" by the "charms" of Stainer: "... the master [Pietro] was not alone among the great to be thus captivated.  Even Guarneri del Gesu and Carlo Bergonzi were at times caught up in the vogue.  The only maker who consistently throughout his life would have none of it was Antonio Stradivari."

 

The Hills' assertion that Stainer somewhat influenced at times both del Gesu and Bergonzi is frustratingly vague.  The Hills offer no details supporting that assertion.  Are we dealing with an adoption of a Stainer model on occasion or just a Stainer feature here and there (like the shortened stop length you mention) or just a tonal conception?  Specifically, which del Gesu and Bergonzi instruments support that assertion? Unfortunately, all one can do is take the Hills at their unelaborated word.

 

What is clear in their assertion is that the Hills find no Stainer influence, whatsoever, in the work of Stradivari.  Stradivari seems to be the important exception to Stainer's influence in Italy, including, to some degree, Stainer's influence in Cremona, if one wants to believe the Hills.

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