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18th Century Violin - f holes


Rue
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Just as I said, by this way to present photos, all the violins don't look very different.... B) (although the edges and purfling of the Breton does look indeed very much "wonkier", not to mention other details - what about the estimation of 15-20 K, which is suggested as "a real wonder once properly restored"? )

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Look at the arching!!!! One is very classic Stainer (as described) and the Breton is typical flat wannabe-straddy arching. OK, they are both wide grain, and the roughness of the Breton's soundholes is damage - you can see they were finely cut in the extreme regions, so apart from the same seductive lighting drenching the shot, I can't see a likeness. I've only ever seen very early (and very rare) Richard Duke violins from the 1740s with anything other than a rather muddy brown varnish, typically quite a plain back. It certainly doesn't resemble this: http://www.martinswanviolins.com/sales/richard-duke-violin/

 

Clearly we can question the marketing strategy of this guy, and I wouldn't be surprised if it continues not to sell, because the quality of information just isn't good enough. I had no idea that all violins flogged off the internet should automatically have a massive discount!

 

Some Bretons can be extremely good. I know of a Breton Brevete cello that was being sold in a London shop for £60,000 and despite my initial shock, it turned out to be worth it - surprisingly close to an early Vuillaume. The majority really aren't anywhere near that. I can't see $15,000 - 20,000 quality in [the photographs of] this one, and I do think dealers have to be very careful about selling violins in unrestored condition. The obvious question is "if your selling it for $3,000 and it will be worth $15,000 when you restore it, why don't you?"... It's not like we've got a reputation of dolling out free cash to unsuspecting musicians, eh? 

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I had no idea that all violins flogged off the internet should automatically have a massive discount!

 

Well, now you do.  :lol:

Seriously, some accommodation has to be made for the "pig in a poke" nature of internet sales.  You simply can't expect people to want to fork over as much money for something that they only see a photo of, one reason that I buy globally but sell locally.  The operations that do massively well at internet sales, judging by eBay statistics, do it on volume, in some cases enhanced by reputation over time, but they didn't start with one.

 

Another little note.  IMHO, the acoustic improvement in Chinese made violin family instruments over the last fifteen years or so is having a major impact on the mostly sound-driven lower end of the market.  People simply aren't as scared to buy Chinese any more.  The increase in Chinese sticker prices is helping stabilize prices down here where I swim, but I've definitely felt the effects.

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Some Bretons can be extremely good. I know of a Breton Brevete cello that was being sold in a London shop for £60,000 and despite my initial shock,

Ah! Memories. My first school days viola was labelled Breton Brevete. Wonder whatever happened to it?

I paid $70 for it, I think. A bright golden-yellow varnish on it.

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Some Bretons can be extremely good. I know of a Breton Brevete cello that was being sold in a London shop for £60,000 and despite my initial shock, it turned out to be worth it - surprisingly close to an early Vuillaume. The majority really aren't anywhere near that. I can't see $15,000 - 20,000 quality in [the photographs of] this one, and I do think dealers have to be very careful about selling violins in unrestored condition. The obvious question is "if your selling it for $3,000 and it will be worth $15,000 when you restore it, why don't you?"... It's not like we've got a reputation of dolling out free cash to unsuspecting musicians, eh? 

 

Reg. the Breton listing, I'm also wondering about the claimed early date from the (late) 18th century, without any statement about evidence or proof for this.

Here is another EBay early Breton

http://www.ebay.de/itm/Meistergeige-J-F-Breton-1820-Expertise-Rampal-/160608107260?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_77&hash=item2564fd3afc

Rampal certified, in a much better condition, and for nearly the same price - but I can see some more dilligence in this listing.

Of course I won't say that it is close to a Vuillaume.

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I think they may have over-cooked the goose on this one. I'm pretty convinced I've seen enough like this to know how different the seductive sultry low light photography is from reality. Whoever buys this is likely to assume they've been posted the wrong instrument!

 

Oh, and the pegbox cracks, anyone?

 

I'm not going to be as open minded on this particular instrument as I was on the 18th century thingumy. 

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Now it's an "18th century thingumy" - c'mon, put your neck on the block ...!

I thought it was "very distinctive and characteristic of a maker I know well".

 

On the subject of "Breton" instruments, this is one of the most exploited and abused names in the shady world of French trade violins - pretty much everyone says they have an original Joseph Francois Breton when they don't. I don't know his exact dates, but I believe he produced rather rubbish oversize violins up till about 1800 (such as the one being sold by Ames Anciennes, though the fact that it's oversize is just a guess, based on the absence of a back length). Post-1800 (though Terrier claims until the late 1830s), the Breton Brevete brand and trademark was passed from hand to hand, and became public domain in the late 19th century, at which point every Mirecourt firm sold a  Breton model. These are of wildly varying quality - the worst are very poor and the best are great. The italic "Breton" on the heel appeared around 1870 I think.

 

In the middle of the 19th century it would appear that the Breton name was largely in the hands of the Laurent family : http://www.luthiers-mirecourt.com/marques_generiques.htm

 

In conclusion, a genuine Joseph Francois is a thing rather to be avoided (poor 18th century French violins having little or no value), an early-mid 19th century one might be quite nice, though I never saw one which was significantly superior to something like a Didier Nicolas, and Mumtu's is quite typical, rather stolid or "wooden". Towards the end of the 19th century some very good trade instruments were made with this brand, but by the 20th century it's mostly standard student-level violins, rather like the over-egged "Barnabettis" which excercise a similar hold over the buying public. 

 

Mostly the later Mirecourt models were retro-branded in the manner of "Viotti Essayé" or the various "Sarasate" models.

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...and here is another listing, which proudly presents only 3 keywords (18th century, tyrolean, Italy)

 

http://www.ebay.com/itm/361300089407?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&fromMakeTrack=true

 

It's also not finally to decide, but it appears to be very probable in my eyes, that minimum X of X are X - the violin xxxxxxxxx has no touch of the Schönfelder school from Markneukirchen IMO. :lol:B)

 

(edited, I'm a coward)

Edited by Blank face
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Blank Face, you are a braver man than me. I think if we were to discuss on Maestronet the fact that Tyrol is not the same as North Italy, or that very few violins were actually made in Tyrol, let alone whether this violin might or might not be either of the above (it can't of course be both), we would find ourselves involved in a threatened lawsuit before you could say Jack Robinson.

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Blank Face, you are a braver man than me. I think if we were to discuss on Maestronet the fact that Tyrol is not the same as North Italy, or that very few violins were actually made in Tyrol, let alone whether this violin might or might not be either of the above (it can't of course be both), we would find ourselves involved in a threatened lawsuit before you could say Jack Robinson.

I don’t think BF is very brave to establish that the violin is from the Markneukirchen area ca. 1800 at all.

BTW. A large chunk of Tirol has been annexed to N. Italy since 1919, but I think we have had that argument once before

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last time we debated something from this source, Maestronet got a lawyer's letter  :ph34r:

My father always had a solicitors letter, addressed to him on behalf of a certain Mr. Turner ready on his sideboard, that he would show to each and every person foolhardy enough to walk into his workshop :rolleyes:

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Martin, you are brave enough to speak it out!

It's always a good thing to have an "expert of court" at his side, just in case of..... :unsure:

 

And because I'm not as brave as you're supposing, I used words like "not finally, probable, touch of" - we should consider that the description is completely right and is written with the necessary dilligence.

But to keep away trouble from this appreciated forum, I edited my post. :ph34r::(

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It's always hard to sell a violin with a brick in the back, but setting aside the condition issues and looking beyond to the violin underneath, I think it's very pretty. Lovely f-holes, really elegant model, good scroll, nice wood, nice size 35.1 ... I certainly wouldn't walk past it in a saleroom.

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Lusitano, I see Peter has posted, so the question about cost has been answered - dendro is not expensive.

Nor is it remotely difficult - you just need to take clear photos of the lower part of the table (without the strings & tailpiece) and send them to someone like Peter. How easy is that?

 

Well now problem solved, normally such analysis is a lot harder and more expensive to get when considering scientific rigor...! I still (I will be burned at the stake if any botanists get wind of this) consider dendro as straight forward and reliable as cryptozoological analysis and find that (not insulting anyone!) the individuals who state they are proficient enough to do such analysis have little to no backing to assure the buyer their results are in fact rigorous. Unfortunately (again not attacking anyone!!!) it's hard to tell professionals from said professionals...

 

I for once agree with Mr Saunders on this issue, why on earth would such analysis be warranted?! It's an eBay violin and I believe a reputable evaluation by other means would suffice!

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Well now problem solved, normally such analysis is a lot harder and more expensive to get when considering scientific rigor...! I still (I will be burned at the stake if any botanists get wind of this) consider dendro as straight forward and reliable as cryptozoological analysis and find that (not insulting anyone!) the individuals who state they are proficient enough to do such analysis have little to no backing to assure the buyer their results are in fact rigorous. Unfortunately (again not attacking anyone!!!) it's hard to tell professionals from said professionals...

 

I for once agree with Mr Saunders on this issue, why on earth would such analysis be warranted?! It's an eBay violin and I believe a reputable evaluation by other means would suffice!

 

 

In dendrochronology, scientific rigor has to be based on replicating results at highly significant statistical correlation, combined with graphical comparison of the data.

 

This can only be done by cross-dating thousands of datasets from instruments, and seeing the multiple and consistent results. I have come across a few dendrochronological reports by people you would regard as trained professionals with eminently suitable scientific background concluding totally spurious dating due precisely to lack of scientific rigor, and lack of data. I only ever date wood from instrument when results can be backed up with a suitable amount of data.

 

Dendro can be straightforward, in many cases, it is and the consistency of results that I see while testing wood is overwhelming. 

 

Of course, in many other instances, statistical results produce countless spurious correlations, and that is when a result has to be declared inconclusive, and no date given.

As I have tested tree-ring patterns from 1000’s of instruments, and now make this my only occupation, I have identified several “batches” of wood, used in different countries during specific periods.  I do not invent this, and these observations are based on inter-correlating data obtaining highly significant results between instruments from specific areas. 

 

I have always approached dendrochronology with an open mind, letting the results of the tests telling their own story, and the more tests I do, the more the suggestions from these tests become clearer.  This is of course not valid for every period in making, as the trade in tonewood evolved in different places at different times, but again I can identify pretty much the sequence of events (although not necessarily the events themselves) that follow these changes.  When I say,for example, that English (decent) instruments from about 1650 to about 1720 were made from wood from a specific area, and that the wood from these instruments correlate highly significantly together and at the same time, correlate equally significantly with data from Dutch instruments of the same period, I do this because that is what is reported from the cross-dating tests, not between an English instrument and other English or Dutch instruments, but against the entirety of my instrument database.  So far, no genuine instrument from elsewhere has been found to correlate anywhere near to the same extent.  From this, it is fair to assume that the two countries in question shared a source of spruce, and that it would be anomalous to find this wood (although of course, not impossible) on, for example, an Italian contemporary instrument.  This is only one example of the tangible value of tests on instruments of uncertain origin. Another example is the “batch” of wood from a few locations (as yet unknown) that almost always responds highly significantly to cross-dating with instruments of Italian origin virtually exclusively during the period from about 1725 to 1780, maybe a little later depending on the town.  Would it surprise you that wood from the same tree ended up in five different workshops in Italy in about 1740 , in location as far south as Naples and at the opposite end, in Venice, passing through Bologna, Cremona and Rome, but also found its way to Spain about 25 years later? It used to surprised me, it doesn't any longer…

 

Sadly, due to time constraints, very little is written about dendrochronology in respect of musical instruments, and I totally understand that without peer reviewed papers or reference, you, as a scientist would find it difficult to give any credence to what I, and some of my colleagues do.

 

Regarding the fee, I have tried to keep the costs low for an initial test both to ncourage people to providing me with data, and to make it more accessible.  This means that I am able to test instruments of all value and origin, not just the expensive or rare instruments. This is my choice, and although it is certainly not a money-maker, my database has increased exponentially in the last 2 years, leading to more targeted and useful information gleaned from the tests. My working methods and the software I have developed allow me to process images and collect tree-ring data within a very short time, which is how, rightly or wrongly, I am able to offer the service I do at the price mentioned (it's gone up a bit since,you will be pleased to know).  Full reports, of course, are substantially more expensive, and do include all the necessary information to render the results scientifically reliable and conclusive. If this information is not available, no date will be given and no report issued.

 

The fact that a violin is being sold on ebay does not render it “uninteresting” or unworthy of some backing from a scientific test. On this subject, I have personally purchased an instrument on ebay, partly based on a test from the images supplied in the listing, which revealed, not only a strong affiliation to wood used in Italy, but also a “same-tree” match to another certified Genoese instrument. I find that quite useful.

Please expand on what concrete and tangible backing a "reputable evaluation by other means" has, and why should it suffice?, isn't that a totally unscientific method of going about things? and why have a number of these past reputable evaluations fallen recently?

 

I fear that your take on this is borne out of ignorance of the subject, but cannot blame you for it due to the lack of published reference. Thankfully, an increasing number of dealers and players think otherwise.

 

I do, however, welcome scientific criticism, as long as it is done with knowledge of my work rather than general or unfounded assumptions.  If I cannot justify what I do, I try not to do it...

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Well now problem solved, normally such analysis is a lot harder and more expensive to get when considering scientific rigor...! I still (I will be burned at the stake if any botanists get wind of this) consider dendro as straight forward and reliable as cryptozoological analysis and find that (not insulting anyone!) the individuals who state they are proficient enough to do such analysis have little to no backing to assure the buyer their results are in fact rigorous. Unfortunately (again not attacking anyone!!!) it's hard to tell professionals from said professionals...

 

I for once agree with Mr Saunders on this issue, why on earth would such analysis be warranted?! It's an eBay violin and I believe a reputable evaluation by other means would suffice!

 

What on Earth are you talking about and why on Earth do you think your opinions carry any weight ? Do you have any traceable qualification ? A name ? Peter is an expert of worldwide reputation and yourself a faceless, nameless post on MN.

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I think it's worth adding a second perspective to Peter's comments above. 

 

In terms of academic papers, the following two by John Topham and Derek McCormick provide a rigorously peer-reviewed demonstration of the technique of dendrochronology that they employed, using first of all the results taken from measuring the violins shown in the 1998 "British Violin" Exhibition, and later their work on the Messiah, in which the instrument was tested against other instruments of similar origin. This paper establishes the reliability of the system of cross matching individual chronologies and therefore the way in which a dendrochronologist can establish relationships of wood source - up to 'same tree matches' as well as how the date is arrived at. 

 

Topham J. and McCormick D.  A dendrochronological investigation of British instruments of the violin family.  Journal of     Archaeological Science, 25; 1149-1157, 1998. 

 

Topham J. and McCormick D.  A dendrochronological of stringed instruments of the Cremonese School (1666-1757) including the ‘Messiah’ violin attributed to Antonio Stradivari.  Journal of Archaeological Science, 27; 183-192, 2000.

 

For whatever reasons, a number of people have gained influence in the field of violin dendrochronology by undermining this system. In fact, because the system is computerised, the algorithmic regressions of the data mean that there is always a blind result, not influenced by other factors which makes the data especially reliable, although human interpretation of the data may - and continues to be - prone to biases, as found in abbreviated descriptions in some auction catalogues & some dealers. As with everything, the buyer has the responsibility to ensure they have competently read and understood the implications of the results. 

 

Peter apologises for the lack of more recent academic articles, but the fact is that Topham and McCormick established the principles of the system, and produced several other academic papers around 2000, but these two in particular prove the reliability and integrity of the methodology that he, Topham, and Beuting all use. Additional papers would not add to the integrity of the science, although they would help experts to make more informed readings of specific schools of making. Peter's contribution to the recent book on Spanish violin makers is precisely the kind of contribution to knowledge that is valuable. Peer review through scientific journals would be unnecessary because the methodology has already been established and accepted. 

 

In terms of those who have cast doubt on dendrochronology, it is worth understanding in the case of Stewart Pollens is that his only experience of the technique at the time of the Messiah, was by observing Peter Klein who used a pioneering system involving tracing paper and a long graph, physically overlaying one on top of the other and capable only of finding a date if the overlay was accurate. Klein was an absolute pioneer of dendrochronology in panel paintings before Topham, but the system he developed years before had obvious flaws and led to better systems later on. It was unfortunate that when he analysed a violin from photos on Pollen's instigation, he was never asked to check his findings in light of the purported attribution of the apparently new-looking violin as a 1716 Stradivari. Had he done so, he would have found more compelling a match than the low-grade similarities that he observed at the year 1738. However, as you can probably imagine, given that the scientist was given photographs of a violin that had the appearance of being almost new, this would bias against plausibility for a date even this early. If Pollen's had double checked Klein's results by disclosing the facts, a reliable match would have been found at 1685. Instead he rushed to press, and Klein subsequently withdrew his findings. Pollens on the other hand has never withdrawn his faith in Klein's findings. 

 

It's also a pity that Grissino-Meyer undermined the integrity of his own science with his third interpretation of the results. These made the news after he conducted independent tests on the Messiah. His 1687 date, as opposed to 1685 was simply the measurement that he took from the belly (as Topham had done), plus a couple of extra growth rings detectable under the fingerboard as a result of the belly being jointed not-quite perpendicular to the grain lines. This didn't make any difference whatsoever to the science or the forensic integrity of Topham's study, and certainly wasn't in the slightest bit newsworthy, except as dickwiggling charlatanism that has added to the literature which improperly undermines the integrity of the methodology applied to violins. Mondino and Avalle produced dates of 1788 later at 1844 for the Messiah, but their results are simply bizarre, and their do-it-yourself pregnancy test dendrochronology kit only produced cross matches against broad master chronologies, without the strength of a database of potential cross-matches. Their test which was so reliable that even they rejected one of their implausible results for another implausible result can only really be measured by that meter of success. Other examples of poor practice include the Musee du Louvre where tests against a master chronology have been conducted on violins where the results are verified establishing if they are consistent with C14 dating a wood sample from the instrument. The multiplicity of reasons why this is so patently self-evidently wrong is simply enormous. 

 

To amplify Peter's comments, the more that he, Topham, Beuting and other committed dendrochronologists expand their databases of instruments, the higher the instance of cross matching and the greater the integrity of any single result in a system whose overall integrity was established by peer review back in 1998. It is a problem that numerous people, including those with purportedly legitimacy of impressive institutional positions have ignored the science behind this technique in favour of their own aggrandisement and publicity. Sadly, this means that it has been very difficult for many of us observers to make a decisive balanced and impartial assessment of the reliability of it all. I've been watching things very closely since 1998, and see nothing except good science and high standards of  integrity in the system.

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