Serious question about Del Gesu


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To me, Guarneri's later work looks like it was done by a highly competent maker working at high speed. Maybe there were a lot of people who could not afford the high end Cremonese violins, and Guarneri saw a way of making instruments at a lower price point. He could cut some corners here and there with how the instruments were finished, therefore making them quicker and selling them cheaper. Meanwhile, he was good enough to do the important things well, starting with using great quality wood, and later ending up with instruments possessing a great sound. If people couldn't afford a Strad, they could still buy something that sounded great, but looked comparatively rough.

 

I reason that it's not so hard for any maker to allow flaws to exist in work that's made for a low price. Rough workmanship can be excused if you are still creating instruments with a great sound. I don't have the view that Guarneri was trying to be some sort of artist with his more wild instruments, and if I don't get it, I must be some sort of philistine. I haven't time to do any particular research to back up my views with hard facts, but I suspect that in reality, there was a more down to earth reason for his less finished work than a romantic notion. If it wasn't for the tone of his best instruments, we probably wouldn't hear about him any more than the many other violin makers working at that time who are hardly given much more than a mention.

 

I respect Guarneri very much, I'm a week away from finishing a Guarneri model violin, without the tool marks because I have the time to remove them which I think Guarneri didn't have.

I fully agree with you,

I apologize that I can be so wordy and yet so confusing.

 

I too think that he was going petal to the floor ,yet able to pull it off in such an artistic and relaxed manner because he was good at what he did.

I never saw him as trying to produce an artistic object for artistry's sake, just needed to make the rent.

I don't have any proof of anything,,

But I see a guy that has rent due yesterday, and we're coming to take you away kind of gig.

There could've been a dealer ready to give x coins for every one that was ready.

I just think that he had a marvelously artistic eye and knew what he was doing.

I also think that something was physically wrong,

Personally I have had several serious physical problems that cause depression no energy and lack of focus,

long ago you would be dead in several years, now days we get to live. (a little longer at least)

So it is easy for me to see some of that in there also.

As in,,, he flat did not want to do this but was still alive and just had to.

Didn't mean to be romantic.

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I've had a nagging question in my mind about Guarneri that I may as well ask now. Roger has spoken about the guild that operated at that time, and I assume del Gesu was a member of that guild, or he wouldn't be allowed to work. Isn't part of the function of a guild to ensure a certain standard of workmanship? Perhaps Joseph met the minimum standard, or was the guild toothless, or even defunct at that time? I'm wondering how a guild, which I've imagined had strict rules, and control over an industry, would tolerate "freedom of expression".

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I know this is not the right place for this, but it might add another tie to have some of the shapes were produced by various makers. This is from a paper I prepared that was not published showing the relationship of the catenary, a bent stick and the fit to some of the Cremona inst's. It might be coincidence  but it does show the possibility. Just something to add to the porridge.

 

This brings forward one of the difficulties in trying to uncover the old design methods.   Many different approaches can be caused to approximately fit a particular curve.   Showing that a process is a able to trace along for some violins unfortunately doesn't give you very much. 

 

If a process also implies a simple recipe that can then generate the shapes from scratch, that's a little better.  And if simple variations on that recipe can then generate good traces for many examples across a maker, and across many makers, that is more interesting. The aim is to find a comparatively robust and historically sensible system that works broadly.

 

Here's another difficulty.  Let's say we love the Golden Ratio, ~1.61803 etc.    We go to a museum and perhaps we see that indeed, some of the canvases have dimensions in this ratio.  We might conclude that the Golden Ratio was used to size these canvases.  And maybe it was, but maybe it wasn't.   Much more generally, we see canvases are sized in simple integer ratios.  Even today you can see this continues at the local art supply store where canvases are sold in ratios, like 24 by 36.     This system turns out to be simple and flexible.  Effectively, it's able to cover the Golden Ratio, plus many more proportions that 'read well' to the eye.  Does an artist need to leave this normal system to get a canvas that appears to be Golden Ratio? No!    8/5 = 1.6 which is equal to a Golden Ratio, plus or minus 1.25%. 

 

Similarly, it doesn't mean too much that various highly flexible systems can be made to trace a violin outline.   Bezier curves (familiar to many from Photoshop and other computer graphics programs) for example, are nearly universally adaptable and can very readily be made to trace any shape, including a violin.  Curves made by bending wooden battens, wire, or similar are closely related to Beziers, and can also be made to fit almost any shape if flexibility of the material is ideally adjustable and enough control points are introduced. 

 

As you probably know, these 'bent batten' curves have a history in boat building and design.  They were used in 'lofting' and 'fairing' the shape of boats.   But in traditional boat building, the batten curves don't govern the design. Instead, they're used to smooth and perfect a shape that is govern by various controls in the design that are set by other methods.

 

These 'bent batten' curves, and similar Bezier curves, generate smoothed or minimalized curves through specified control points.   In a sense, these methods are less about providing a way to govern a design, than about 'fairing' a design – 'fairing' meaning to provide a minimalized smoothness.   Design is then more about the selection of controls and guides to the shape, which might be governed by some other system.  Bent battens were of course only one way of testing and achieving good smoothness and fair.  Fairing was certainly important to more than just boat building. 

 

Since these 'smoothing' curves can be made near universal by adding enough control points, their ability to 'fit' a violin outline doesn't actually tell us much about the governing design of that outline.  Except that it's a smooth shape.

 

However, it's more 'special' that traditional Italian violin shapes can trace with relatively simple compass and rule constructions.  These constructions are less universally adaptable.  So it is more remarkable and significant that they yield a good fit for violins.  They're also very historically consistent.  Kevin Coates' 1985 book Geometry, Proportions, and the Art of Lutherie gives a good introduction to the basic compass constructions that trace a violin outline.  In turn, others started on the difficulties of finding recipes to guide these constructions in order to generate rather than trace outlines.  Many approaches to this can be tried.  I favor basing the compass constructions and design guides on simple integer relationships.

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I was not going to say any more on this topic, but I don’t want to leave it with a misunderstanding about the subject of guilds. As far as Cremonese violin makers are concerned very little is know.

From archive material it is apparent that at various periods particular families dominated the business of musical instrument manufacture in Cremona, indicating that some form of professional hierarchy appears to have existed. The most likely explanation would be the presence of a guild or guilds.

In the business of musical instruments strong guild systems were in force long before violinmaking had been thought of, and there is no reason to suppose that Cremona’s violinmakers were exempt. In the duchy of Milan each of its city-states, including Cremona, regulated their own economic policies and taxes. At the head of each city council were the nobility who clearly held most of the power and autonomy. Below the nobility, professional bodies such as lawyers’ notaries and physicians had considerable influence, but very often it was the merchant and craft guilds that manipulated and occasionally even controlled a cities economic policy. One of the most important duties of the guilds was in collecting the cities taxes from their members. For this reason alone it would have been almost impossible for Cremona’s makers not to have been controlled by a guild of some kind.

Between the 11th and 16th centuries guilds developed and flourished with the growth of European cities and towns and the division of labour within them. Somewhat remarkably in spite of the isolated nature of these ‘city states’, the structure and organization of guilds was similar and often strongly linked throughout the continent. At this same time merchants and traders working in foreign parts required commercial protection and as I mentioned earlier the powerful pan European system known as ‘The Law Merchant’ arose. ‘The Law Merchant’ was the forerunner of modern commercial law and on the Italian peninsular especially it was largely administered by the guilds. These factors probably explain why so many instrument makers were able to travel apparently unmolested across Europe’s political borders selling both their labour and their wares.

The chief role of guilds was to regulate production and control standards but often they determined the entire manufacturing process including the purchase of raw materials and marketing strategies. They certainly set down the duties of each master journeymen and apprentice, the lengths of their working day and their wages. There were guild courts with the power to fine members for poor workmanship unfair trade practices and the like.

As was often the case in similar professions, Cremona’s violin makers may have been affiliated to a larger related group such as the guild of woodworkers. This was certainly the case with the Cironi family. Ironically although no instruments from the family are known to have survived they are the only Cremonese musical instrument makers for whom guild membership is documented. Giovanni Maria Cironi had been a musician and instrument maker in Pozzaglio before settling in Cremona. He applied for Cremonese citizenship in 1610 declaring that the family had been making viols, citterns, and other musical instruments in the city for several years.

It is perhaps significant that the Cironi were eventually affiliated to the guild of woodworkers in Cremona. Although the high social status of Cremona’s violin makers would suggest they were a more autonomous group this may not have been the case. Indeed, somewhat later, the violinmakers of Milan were also affiliated to the guild of woodworkers and as I just pointed out Cremona fell under the jurisdiction of Milan. In fact there were several subdivisions for musical instruments in Milan, which included violin, harpsichord, organ and plucked instruments.

There are many examples of guild membership amongst violin makers in Italy. In Piacenza Giovanni Baptista used an additional stamp on his label for the first time. This stamp incorporated his initials G.B.G. surmounted by a cross with the letter P beneath. Piacenza’s chamber of merchants granted this stamp, and in their records Giovanni Baptista is registered as a woodworker. Under normal circumstances, for this to have happened, he must have served an apprenticeship of at least four years. At risk of starting another rumour, it might be significant that Antonio Stradivari employed a similar ‘extra’ stamp on his labels.

In Venice guilds for musical instrument makers were both independent and powerful. In 1744 Sanctus Seraphin made an undertaking to his guild to produce no more violins. It seems likely that this promise was forced upon him by the guild, because he lived on for at least fourteen years and from documents it is clear that he could still sign his name in 1758. Also of interest is the fact Pietro Guarneri of Venice (formally of Cremona) is recorded paying tax via the Venetian guilds at least up to 1753. However, his shop was registered in the name of his son Guiseppe, probably because Pietro was Cremonese and Guiseppe was born in Venice.

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Thanks Roger.  :)

 

The guilds in Cremona at the time where mostly - Università.

 

Are there any known registrations of luthiers in old Cremona besides the ones below?

 

1630 Girolamo Amati registered as "marangoni"

 

In the book of 1787, registered as "fabbricatori di violini e chitarre":

Nicola Bergonzi (without dependents)  - shop located at 1232 della contrada Colonna (today corso Campi)

and Lorenzo Storioni with a dependent "garzone" Giovanni Rota - shop located at 1233 di via de’ Coltellai (today via Guarnieri)

 

Book of 1850 - Enrico Ceruti (42 years of age then) registered as “restauratore di strumenti”

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Thank you Roger for your detailed post on guilds.

 

The chief role of guilds was to regulate production and control standards but often they determined the entire manufacturing process including the purchase of raw materials and marketing strategies. They certainly set down the duties of each master journeymen and apprentices, the lengths of their working day and their wages. There were guild courts with the power to fine members for poor workmanship unfair trade practices and the like.

 

Well, this is what brought up the questions in my mind as I tried to reconcile what you wrote above with Guarneri's work. As modern makers, we can make instruments as clean or dirty as we like, and the market will determine success. If working with a guild overseeing our work, we'd need to make sure the work was up to scratch, or we might get fined. I could see myself feeling afraid to experiment too much, or allow below average workmanship to find it's way to customers. If Guarneri was affiliated with a guild, he wasn't worried about it.

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Thank you Roger for your detailed post on guilds.

 

 

Well, this is what brought up the questions in my mind as I tried to reconcile what you wrote above with Guarneri's work. If Guarneri was affiliated with a guild, he wasn't worried about it.

Or they weren't worried about him.

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The most likely answer to this is, that by the time Del Gesu's work began to get wild, as I pointed out, the economy of the Italian peninsular was struggling with wars and general upheaval. The Austrian Empire in particular seem to have been keen to curb the power of the various guilds. Consequently, there may have been little or no controls, at least not in the traditional way that had existed only a decade or so earlier. The turmoil and chaos made things very difficult for the late Cremonese makers, but they have also made it difficult for historians (I am not a historian) to build a realistic picture of the social lives of these men and women.     

 

But just to be clear, in his late period, I am convinced that Del Gesu did not work the way he did because he was no longer subject to the control of some governing body.  

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Is that even a del Gesu?

I can see the Doyenesque f holes so it could be the bench twin for it. But a beech back from Mr "I've got a brother in Venice who can get me anything"? Even the backs of the LeDuc and Sainton are of maple if not the flashiest sort. I can't think of a single Del Gesu made of B grade wood.

 The ribs too.  a few years later in Cremona MIchelangelo Bergonzi liked bit of beech wood. 

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Hi David (post 206), the only purpose of the publication was to show a graphical  method for creating templates for the arching of an inst.  I wrote the paper a long time ago so recall is weak, but I think it was something from Sacconi's  that I realized a bent stick would follow the cross arches of some of the drawings. I then worked out a method to produce the arches and return arch of the gutter. I assumed  the arch is a catenary curve, for if you suspend a chain, the bent stick pretty much copies it.  No question I must have said "WOW" when that stick followed the drawing. fred 

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Don't you just love the V? HS one? It looks very similar (from memory) to one on the wall in Via Guarneri.  

 

I thought VHS was first introduced in commerce in the mid-1970's!!! :lol:

 

Looks to me more like the devotional christogram introduced in this form by S. Bernardino da Siena where the letter I is very stylized.

 

post-29446-0-78870600-1421617131_thumb.jpg post-29446-0-57156700-1421617189_thumb.jpg

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I thought VHS was first introduced in commerce in the mid-1970's!!! :lol:

 

Looks to me more like the devotional christogram introduced in this form by S. Bernardino da Siena where the letter I is very stylized.

 

attachicon.gifSan Bernardino da Siena.jpg attachicon.gifS Bernardino da Siena 2.jpg

 

Yes I kind of had that Bruce, but I really wonder how old the plaque in Via Giuseppe is and also the one that Piergiuseppe showed us. The latter looks quite old. These may be just devotional signs placed on houses, or they may be signs indicating some form of institution. But in the absence of house numbers such signs were often the trade sign of whoever lived there. I seem to remember a thread on this theme some time ago, saying that several signs on houses in London, matched signs on violin labels. In other words these were the equivalent of an address at a time when street names and house number did not exist.   

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deleted

 

Carl, I thought that you were trying to be the first to wish me Happy Birthday. I just realised that I have once again worked, (how can anyone call this work) into a new morning and the start of another new year for me.

 

Happy birthday to me 

Happy birthday to me  

De de de de

De de de de

Happy Birthday to me

 

Well thank you very much, I sang that very nicely. Good night! 

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