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Jack Devereux

Del Gesu Edgework

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 Thanks, Peter - that's more or less exactly what I wasn't talking about - exception to prove the rule? 

 

Actually the photos of the side show a desperately thin edge - it seems quite normal towards the top and bottom, but feathers down towards the corners and remains thin throughout the c-bout,  which makes me strongly suspect that the edge has been reworked lowered for sure. A full del Gesu edge can be rather offensive to the eye, especially on the front! The back of the instrument has far more of the character that I am looking for. 

 

Before 1992 when Chi-Mei bought the instrument (and 6 years before the Biddulph book) there was a certain taint on the violin - although the Hills called it the most characteristic of del Gesu's work, I've heard mutterings that others thought that it probably wasn't del Gesu at all, just a rather outlandish reattribution of something made in Parma or a funny Storioni or likewise. Of course it's fine, and we are now more aware of violins that put it in context but it's worth noting that the eccentricities of it kept a certain generation of experts away from total confidence of it. 

 

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So, unless someone can throw some rotten vegetables at me, do not take the front of the Ole Bull as an example of del Gesu's original working... do take the thinness in the c-bouts as some indication of how radical the inner line of the edge work has to go. 

 

Would be great to see an Ole Bull with Alard-type edge work, although it may be quite disturbing on the eye! 

 

... one problem with this, is if you make a copy of the Ole Bull from casts or arching templates and try to bulk up the edge to a standard height  by increasing the wood on the underside (or just assume a standard height), you'll naturally end up producing a more StrAmati edge... 

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Ben, I thought of posting that photo more as an example of corners that have big overhang.  As I have a strong interest in this topic, your observations are very much appreciated.

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Ah, thanks for that.... 

 

In the hand, these corners can feel particularly exposed because of the large plateau. You can feel quite surprised that they haven't pinged off because there is so much of a vulnerable hook that surely would catch the bow. I can't think of a single other maker where you get that sense... 

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I find that a lot of makers think of del Gesu as a variation on the Cremonese traditions of Amati and Strad. The difficulty of seeing enough of del Gesu's work to really learn it (by comparison to Strads makes this all the more acute). The result is that you tend to get a lot of hybrid instruments from Vuillaume right the way to modern making where the edge work is definitely more Straddy than it should be, and a general ignorance of the need to set out the whole concept differently. 

 

To me, it's the depth of the edge work that creates a thin and flexible hinge around the edges that is the reason for Guarneri's darker sound. I'm not averse to those don't think beyond an Amati-Strad modelling, they are hybrids with attractive playing characteristics. But I'd like to see more violins that start from the presumption that Guarneri was thinking differently.

Ben can to talk more about your idea with this.  Talking about the relationship between the edge (thickest part), transition to the scoop, the scoop (thinnest) and the path out of the scoop.  Also how this relationship is at different parts of the violin (lower, upper , C)  Any pics or drawings would be helpful

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Peter, 

 

In the first place, if someone hasn't dicked about with the edges (which is possible) my comments still stand. Someone probably has made it prettier later, but on the off chance that there is gallons of original varnish over the edges, it would still be an exception from every other del Gesu (remember what I said earlier about people thinking the Ole Bull was a fake). He would have been doing something differently.

 

If I borrow your photograph for a moment, and look over the top, especially towards the far corners, you'll see that the edge work on the Ole Bull is especially flat - flatter than you'd see on a StrAmati kind of edge. My feeling is that after the instrument was made, someone went over the edge and redefined it so that it wasn't so bulky, going to the point (around the midway of the c-bouts) where there is essentially no edge at all, and the edges virtually run off the purfling... See how on the far side, the photo shows no definition at all. 

 

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What I seem to see here, looking at the side view, below... is that there are good full edges towards the extremes of the front. By the time you look at the corners, they are a different shape from those on the back, and it seems that the whole edge work has been feathered so that it's flatter and less distinct through the corners and into the c-bouts... 

 

UV will ultimately tell us what's happening - my guess is that the edge work looked too violent, so someone put a file to it. At the same time, with nothing that can be taken for granted for this fiddle, it's possible that this is another thing that del Gesu did differently.... but the result either way, is that the edges are exactly not typical for his work... 

 

post-52750-0-68966900-1464815534_thumb.jpg

 

Hope that all helps... 

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I think that the long over hangs on DG corners get into the area of undesirable eccentricities that it is best not to copy. While some of the original corners have survived many have not. Since the straight on look of the corners can be kept like the original while still extending the ribs for more support you have a choice between making them look more like DG, which is what I would do when making an antiqued copy, and building a more functional fiddle which is what I would do when borrowing his design for a new looking one.

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Thank you all so much for your input, this is exactly the kinda information I'm looking for!

Ben Hebbert, I'm curious about your description of the edges as a "thin and flexible hinge." Could you elaborate on that?

The photographs that have been shared are great. I was unaware of both the length of overhang at the corners, and how flat (some of) the C bout edges are. It's interesting how round and almost bulbous they can be in the upper and lower bouts but much thinner and flatter in the waist.

Keep it coming, I'm loving reading all this!

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Also, I know it's a bit off the original topic, but I'm taken with Nathan Slobodkin and David Burgess's comments about cleanly varnishing textured, un or minimally scraped wood in a flattering way. Would love to hear more thoughts on this (also, Joe Robson, if you're reading this I'd love to hear your thoughts on this).

Thanks!

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I think that the long over hangs on DG corners get into the area of undesirable eccentricities that it is best not to copy. While some of the original corners have survived many have not. Since the straight on look of the corners can be kept like the original while still extending the ribs for more support you have a choice between making them look more like DG, which is what I would do when making an antiqued copy, and building a more functional fiddle which is what I would do when borrowing his design for a new looking one.

Nathan I agree with what you are saying, but maybe there is something lost (more then broken corners or an "exact detail")  The quality of "tension" that is throughout DG work is also in those long corners.  Like the feeling you get looking at them wondering if they will break and how they freely stick out beyond the solid corner.  I am not saying you should copy this detail, just that the corners need to have a feeling of tension / movement in some way and you may loose some of it by making them more reasonable.

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If I were looking for a compromise on corners, I'd suggest taking a more orthodox approach to building up the blocks according to the final outline.... The corners are not so much 'long' but instead you should think of the overhangs as 'exposed'. 

 

I can't see that this would impact on the integrity of the instrument at all, and for so much as a musician might notice the overhang, they won't if you consciously work it conventionally.  In fact, 99% of del Gesu copies make these compromises unconsciously because people take the ribs structure for granted and don't imagine there to be anything different. 

 

del Gesu probably also took the rib structure for granted, which is why he made it in a way that was easy for him, rather than applying any clever challenges to traditional design....

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If I were looking for a compromise on corners, I'd suggest taking a more orthodox approach to building up the blocks according to the final outline.... The corners are not so much 'long' but instead you should think of the overhangs as 'exposed'. 

 

I can't see that this would impact on the integrity of the instrument at all, and for so much as a musician might notice the overhang, they won't if you consciously work it conventionally.  In fact, 99% of del Gesu copies make these compromises unconsciously because people take the ribs structure for granted and don't imagine there to be anything different. 

 

del Gesu probably also took the rib structure for granted, which is why he made it in a way that was easy for him, rather than applying any clever challenges to traditional design....

I totally agree. Compromising the corners, you might as well compromise the whole outline. Corners are a stylistic feature, not the ribstructure (so much).

 

But I shouldn't really say anything. The whole idea of copying is too French and modern for my taste. :rolleyes:

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I totally agree. Compromising the corners, you might as well compromise the whole outline. Corners are a stylistic feature, not the ribstructure (so much).

 

But I shouldn't really say anything. The whole idea of copying is too French and modern for my taste. :rolleyes:

Do you find your method for Cremonese corners works for Del Gesu as well as Strad or are some of the parameters different.  Is it only the "size of the circles" that are change?

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Do you find your method for Cremonese corners works for Del Gesu as well as Strad or are some of the parameters different.  Is it only the "size of the circles" that are change?

Cremonese corners are made up of circles and a skew line, if you ask me, so yes, it should work, -in theory at least. I guess it would depend on how sharp the knife was that day he cut them. Of course the end line is at a much steeper angle than for example Strads. They are still totally Cremonese.

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Nathan I agree with what you are saying, but maybe there is something lost (more then broken corners or an "exact detail")  The quality of "tension" that is throughout DG work is also in those long corners.  Like the feeling you get looking at them wondering if they will break and how they freely stick out beyond the solid corner.  I am not saying you should copy this detail, just that the corners need to have a feeling of tension / movement in some way and you may loose some of it by making them more reasonable.

If I were looking for a compromise on corners, I'd suggest taking a more orthodox approach to building up the blocks according to the final outline.... The corners are not so much 'long' but instead you should think of the overhangs as 'exposed'. 

 

I can't see that this would impact on the integrity of the instrument at all, and for so much as a musician might notice the overhang, they won't if you consciously work it conventionally.  In fact, 99% of del Gesu copies make these compromises unconsciously because people take the ribs structure for granted and don't imagine there to be anything different. 

 

del Gesu probably also took the rib structure for granted, which is why he made it in a way that was easy for him, rather than applying any clever challenges to traditional design....

Thanks Ben, just my point.The look of the corner from the front or back is a very important part of the violin's design but the fragility of leaving the corner unsupported is a functionally bad idea. If the outline and corner is done like the original then extending the ribs to support it is only apparent to those looking for trivial eccentricities of the maker.

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Thanks Ben, just my point.The look of the corner from the front or back is a very important part of the violin's design but the fragility of leaving the corner unsupported is a functionally bad idea. If the outline and corner is done like the original then extending the ribs to support it is only apparent to those looking for trivial eccentricities of the maker.

Why are long corners a bad idea?  Does DG corners really get broken off more then any other maker's corners?  Is there maybe an advantage to use "short blocks" that we don't know of.  Half of the top professionals are using his violins, maybe we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss something when maybe the issue is that we just don't fully understand it's advantages.   Are we really smarter then DG?   ...... Just an idea to throw in the mix....

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DG didn't invent the long corners. In that department he was a traditionalist. The Brescians had long corners and the Amatis also. I'm sure that at one time long corners was the norm. They fit so well with the renaissance style. Stradivari was probably among the first to shorten the corners to what we are used to see today.

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I am not saying that DG invented "long corners", but that they are a part of the "sauce" that makes up his violins and that maybe we shouldn't be too quick to disregard this as irrelevant.

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Torbjörn, I don't quite agree with you. In Maggini and in Andrea Amati you tend to get very small corners. I like to think that in these forms, the body corresponds to a 'whole', with the corners defining the apex of the curves of a continuous line in very much the same way that a Renaissance artist thought of nipples on the perfect breast... ahem! From a strictly art-historical point of view of course (this might be a historic maestronet post that comes back to haunt me!)

 

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There's Titian and some marble dude, although I would probably go towards Agnolo Bronzino to really look at the over-idealised human form to which this responds best... (Christ's descent into limbo, 1552) because at this point in Mannerism ideal human form seems to be formularised into a way that lends itself to becoming a descriptive formula that can be given wider applications in creating a human narrative to the design of other things, such as violins.

 

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The longer corners and modified shape that appear from very early Nicolo Amati have the effect of breaking the continuous flowing single form, into a defined upper, middle and lower bouts, essentially turning the violin's shape into into a complex and bold form relying on contrasting elements which is precisely the textbook definition of 'baroque' as it emerged as an architectural idea in Italy at precisely the same time. I think Nicolo knew exactly what he was doing, and it was a determined definitive expression of his art at the time that would have been immediately recognisable amongst artists, musicians, architects and anyone engaged in the arts as a statement of the new order. 

 

I don't necessarily lump Gaspar da Salo in this... not because I like to contradict my own statements, but perhaps because the idea hadn't hit him yet... perhaps this can be seen as symbolic of the mannerist uses for the violin (violin band) that emerged after 1564.. leading towards opera, as opposed to the nascent dance music traditions to which Gaspar's instruments might have been directed. I think he's slightly the wrong generation to look at high mannerism beyond painting. 

 

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Ben I like your post, not only for the details of the content, but for the focus on the the domain of art and culture and human experience that the violin was born out of.  Like I have said before, if the violin wasn't "invented" back then, not in a million years would it would have come into existence in modern times.

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The rounding of the edges themselves, do they follow some rule?  Say something like the rounding is a half-circle with a diameter that's the thickness of the edge?  Or does it have some other radius, or is it not even a circle?  Or is it arbitrary?  When I have seen Cremonese violins up close I didn't pay this kind of attention,

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The rounding of the edges themselves, do they follow some rule?  Say something like the rounding is a half-circle with a diameter that's the thickness of the edge?  Or does it have some other radius, or is it not even a circle?  Or is it arbitrary?  When I have seen Cremonese violins up close I didn't pay this kind of attention,

 

I'll try to help some.  First, draw, find or borrow a Del Gesu mold outline with a most perfectly shaped c-bout section and the graceful, easy going cornerblock curves going into the corners from the bouts..  One where people can observe and say "yes, that's Del Gesu".  

 

The belly and back plates have 8 inside c-bout corners, 4 each plate.  However you go about trimming edges, make the undersides as sharp and uniform as possible, especially the ends of the corners, bevel included.

 

The rounding over will be done from the outer corners, not the c-bout.  So leave the c-bout half of the corner alone and shape the bout side over, from above only.  Leave underneath alone, the hooks are to be not smoothed, which will be on the c-bout side of corners. Pick a spot aiming towards the end and neck blocks that you'd want the corner outer face to point towards.  That can make a difference but maybe too picky, who knows.

 

I think an important part to get right is the entire edge height all around plus plate overhang distance.  If a DG plan says edges are 3.3mm, for example, then put them at 3.3mm , don't be leaving them at 5.1 or 4.8 etc., though 3.7mm is probably normal.

 

What did I forget?

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Torbjörn, I don't quite agree with you. In Maggini and in Andrea Amati you tend to get very small corners. I like to think that in these forms, the body corresponds to a 'whole', with the corners defining the apex of the curves of a continuous line in very much the same way that a Renaissance artist thought of nipples on the perfect breast... ahem! From a strictly art-historical point of view of course (this might be a historic maestronet post that comes back to haunt me!)

Ben, yes, I have also likened the violin to the human body back when I was in violin making school. I won't repeat here what I likened the fingerboard to. Suffice it to say that it belongs to the male body. :rolleyes: I have since scrapped this idea. 

 

Do you have examples of Magginis and Andrea Amatis with intact corners? I have noticed a tendency to an affinity of the corners to the f-hole wings in classic violins. I'd like to think of them as related.

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Ben, yes, I have also likened the violin to the human body back when I was in violin making school. I won't repeat here what I likened the fingerboard to. Suffice it to say that it belongs to the male body. :rolleyes: I have since scrapped this idea. 

 

Do you have examples of Magginis and Andrea Amatis with intact corners? I have noticed a tendency to an affinity of the corners to the f-hole wings in classic violins. I'd like to think of them as related.

 

I don't have an answer to gendering the violin.... I don't think that people did in the past either... you could argue on the basis of pitch and it's correlation to the human voice, I suppose. But in the end, is the instrument 'giving voice' to the musician - i.e. an extension of the musician's own self, or are they 'playing on it' as one might compare to the Roman mythology of the invention of Harmony as the union of Mars and Venus, in which case the violin must be the opposite gender to it's (usually male) player. There is no Renaissance literature that I know of that discourses on this, although I expect one should be able to find nuances if you reviewed Renaissance poetry - but I suspect that any argument like this might have been the kind that would be 'debated' rather than proscribed.

 

Nonetheless, the initial origins of the violin and viol in Isabella d'Este's court seems to have been a reaction against the phallic nature of the recorder consort, and the warlike connotations of the sackbut, yet that is not a gendered argument, instead an argument about representative virtues of a female head of a Renaissance dynasty. Yet, the Giovanni d'Andrea lira da braccio made in Verona in 1514  is definitely male on the back, because of the moustache carved into the face, yet the front of the instrument and it's pegbox are contrasting, and probably female. 

 

Debate and reasoned judgement were valued hallmarks of the Renaissance, as opposed to proscriptive views born out of a dogmatic ideological following of the classical texts, so it is just as likely that they would have celebrated the idea that this could be debated, rather than sought to impose an answer. 

 

Sadly, I think Man Ray's Violon d'Ingres has over-influenced our viewpoint, at least firmly asserting the idea of gendered intentions into the 20th century perception of the violin. Man Ray wasn't looking into Renaissance thought in order to produce that photograph. He was observing with a modern eye. 

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Hmm, could be found the traces of 'long corners' and 'small corners' on this engraving from 1514?  :P

 

post-60277-0-38960800-1465119743_thumb.jpg

 

Sorry couldn't resist, perhaps better to delete the post? :unsure:  

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