German violin? ID from ebay


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I thought so

Sorry Jacob it's been a rather busy day - morning and afternoon doing accounts, evening with the in-laws. It's past 1am now so it will have to wait till tomorrow morning. I have a good example of a lower level "Caussin School" here so I'll take some photos too.

The specific points of style are

arching

inner work, construction method and materials

scroll carving and undercut

purfling, width and material

varnish

antiqueing styles

wood choice

f-holes

 

Obviously some of these are germane to all Mirecourt instruments of the period (1870-1890 ish) while some are more specific to the Caussin shop ie. varnish and antiqueing

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Sorry Jacob it's been a rather busy day - morning and afternoon doing accounts, evening with the in-laws. It's past 1am now so it will have to wait till tomorrow morning. I have a good example of a lower level "Caussin School" here so I'll take some photos too.

The specific points of style are

arching

inner work, construction method and materials

scroll carving and undercut

purfling, width and material

varnish

antiqueing styles

wood choice

f-holes

 

Obviously some of these are germane to all Mirecourt instruments of the period (1870-1890 ish) while some are more specific to the Caussin shop ie. varnish and antiqueing

In-laws or otherwise, I've always appreciated your replies.

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OK there are two different questions.

Firstly "what are the Caussin School characteristics in the Ebay violin".

Secondly a wider question, perhaps more implied, which asks what are the differences between French and German trade/trash violins. The second question is worthy of a bit of an essay, and maybe I will attempt it in due course from the French perspective.

Re the OP violin ...

 

CAUSSIN SCHOOL

This is a wide catch-all term, but what it generally refers to is a particular style of Mirecourt production which was self-consciously archaic. The Caussin brothers Nicolas and Francois ran a very successful business into the 1880s producing antiqued violins, almost invariably bearing Italian labels. These violins were made with excellent materials, the work is superb, and tonally they tend to be excellent. However, the style of antiqueing is to modern eyes a bit crude, and the varnish is an acquired taste. While many French makers of the Lyon and Paris schools were pursuing a very different aesthetic (very sharp edgework, flat scroll eyes, edges you could cut your finger on) the Caussins were sticking with their attempt to make old-looking violins.

 

The Caussin shop also made lesser instruments which we would now call "Caussin Workshop", and the tendency to produce slightly retro antiqued instruments was also taken up by other Mirecourt workshops like Cousenon and JTL, and we would call these "Caussin School". These latter shops were also making more obviously French violins of the Collin-Mézin type, with glossy varnish, sharp lines, inked scrolls and rib corners, and by around 1900 demand for the Caussin style seems to have dried up!.

 

So, looking at the Ebay violin, it's primarily the varnish (orange, quite textured, chippy) and the style of antiqueing/shading which would not be found on anything else. In particular the pocking to the varnish on the back (I was told this was done with nitric acid) with a kind of blackness around the rims of the scorched bits. All rather concentrated in the c-bouts and below the fingerboard on the front (simulated rosin build-up). All over the violin there are chips and dunts in the varnish which are part of the Caussin style.

There are various features we can't see, such as the inner work and the way the scroll is undercut (or not). I don't know for sure that all of these violins were made on an outside mold, but the inner work usually supports this. The undercut to the scroll is often stopped, but much further back than in the Schoenbach style, maybe about 8 o'clock rather than 6. BTW those pins will not be original.

The wood seems very typical - the front has a lowland look to it, a lot of latewood in the grain, and broad grain overall. The back is the sort of back that appears a lot on Caussin school violins - very flecky, broad grain lines visible, one-piece. I think much of the "maple" used in French student violins was actually platane, or plane, which is the tree you see in every French provincial town square.

The purfling is quite wide, the width being in the central strip. Many of the lower level efforts have etched purfling, though this tends to be quite neat.

The button is proud and substantial.

The f-holes are a sort of Strad f-hole expanded horizontally - pretty well cut for a trash violin, and typical.

The neck is left a bit rough, not too much but just enough to feel old.

 

I'm sure many of these features can be found on Saxon instruments, but all in conjunction add up to Mirecourt, Caussin inspired if not Caussin workshop, 1880-1890.

 

I will come back to this and add some photos, but for now here's a violin which serves as a link between the Caussin style and the Medio Fino of the early 1900s. Incidentally I don't think this is half as good as the OP violin and it seems expensive to me ...

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/4-4-Old-French-Violin-Circa-1890/262574715417?_trksid=p2047675.c100012.m1985&_trkparms=aid%3D222007%26algo%3DSIC.MBE%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D39801%26meid%3D86211c3e82a748a6b2278a4bbba9e542%26pid%3D100012%26rk%3D2%26rkt%3D20%26sd%3D201688352666

 

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OK there are two different questions.

Firstly "what are the Caussin School characteristics in the Ebay violin".

Secondly a wider question, perhaps more implied, which asks what are the differences between French and German trade/trash violins. The second question is worthy of a bit of an essay, and maybe I will attempt it in due course from the French perspective.

Re the OP violin ...

 

CAUSSIN SCHOOL

This is a wide catch-all term, but what it generally refers to is a particular style of Mirecourt production which was self-consciously archaic. The Caussin brothers Nicolas and Francois ran a very successful business into the 1880s producing antiqued violins, almost invariably bearing Italian labels. These violins were made with excellent materials, the work is superb, and tonally they tend to be excellent. However, the style of antiqueing is to modern eyes a bit crude, and the varnish is an acquired taste. While many French makers of the Lyon and Paris schools were pursuing a very different aesthetic (very sharp edgework, flat scroll eyes, edges you could cut your finger on) the Caussins were sticking with their attempt to make old-looking violins.

 

The Caussin shop also made lesser instruments which we would now call "Caussin Workshop", and the tendency to produce slightly retro antiqued instruments was also taken up by other Mirecourt workshops like Cousenon and JTL, and we would call these "Caussin School". These latter shops were also making more obviously French violins of the Collin-Mézin type, with glossy varnish, sharp lines, inked scrolls and rib corners, and by around 1900 demand for the Caussin style seems to have dried up!.

 

So, looking at the Ebay violin, it's primarily the varnish (orange, quite textured, chippy) and the style of antiqueing/shading which would not be found on anything else. In particular the pocking to the varnish on the back (I was told this was done with nitric acid) with a kind of blackness around the rims of the scorched bits. All rather concentrated in the c-bouts and below the fingerboard on the front (simulated rosin build-up). All over the violin there are chips and dunts in the varnish which are part of the Caussin style.

There are various features we can't see, such as the inner work and the way the scroll is undercut (or not). I don't know for sure that all of these violins were made on an outside mold, but the inner work usually supports this. The undercut to the scroll is often stopped, but much further back than in the Schoenbach style, maybe about 8 o'clock rather than 6. BTW those pins will not be original.

The wood seems very typical - the front has a lowland look to it, a lot of latewood in the grain, and broad grain overall. The back is the sort of back that appears a lot on Caussin school violins - very flecky, broad grain lines visible, one-piece. I think much of the "maple" used in French student violins was actually platane, or plane, which is the tree you see in every French provincial town square.

The purfling is quite wide, the width being in the central strip. Many of the lower level efforts have etched purfling, though this tends to be quite neat.

The button is proud and substantial.

The f-holes are a sort of Strad f-hole expanded horizontally - pretty well cut for a trash violin, and typical.

The neck is left a bit rough, not too much but just enough to feel old.

 

I'm sure many of these features can be found on Saxon instruments, but all in conjunction add up to Mirecourt, Caussin inspired if not Caussin workshop, 1880-1890.

 

I will come back to this and add some photos, but for now here's a violin which serves as a link between the Caussin style and the Medio Fino of the early 1900s. Incidentally I don't think this is half as good as the OP violin and it seems expensive to me ...

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/4-4-Old-French-Violin-Circa-1890/262574715417?_trksid=p2047675.c100012.m1985&_trkparms=aid%3D222007%26algo%3DSIC.MBE%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D39801%26meid%3D86211c3e82a748a6b2278a4bbba9e542%26pid%3D100012%26rk%3D2%26rkt%3D20%26sd%3D201688352666

Oh well. To divide up grotty „trade/trash“ Markie or Frog fiddles from photos is probably lastly a question of motivation. It is nice to have somebody’s confirmation though that „Caussin School/Workshop“ is a generic term, largely bereft of meaning.

The trouble is that the ubiquitous „Dutzendarbeit“ come with such an exhaustive variety of arching’s that that is certainly a non-distinguishing characteristic (particularly on a photograph). I would be inclined to say much the same about the varnish in both places, except for fake French dirt, which seems to have more of a brownish hue, whereas Markie fake dirt has a blacker colour with a dark reddish tinge. I was presuming that Markie fake dirt has something to do with “Nußbeize” (nut stain), whereas I have no idea where the French get their dirt from.

The differentiation where the fluting of the scroll finishes, helps to tell Mittenwald from Markneukirchen, since the Mittenwald goes right to the bitter end of the throat, whereas the Saxon tends to finish at 6 o'clock (cheap ones) or 7 o'clockish (better ones). I fail to see any difference between Mark/Schön or French on that count.

Having been drilled in violin making as a young lad using an outside mould by my father, I cannot subscribe to the theory that this “Caussin school” stuff was made on an outside form. Early 20th C. at the latest, with the ever increasing industrialisation, the outside form was also widely adopted in the Markneukirchen region too, which means that that also tends to fall flat as a distinguishing Feature anyway. I wrote a longer essay on the various rib building methods once before, and copy/paste it here:

To try and simplify things, there are a variety of ways to build a rib cage; The most common:

 

1) Inside mould. The blocks glued to the mould, then cut to shape in the middle, then first the centre bouts bent and glued onto the blocks, the rest of the block shaped then the upper and lower ribs bent and glued on.  This will normally finish with a block with about double the length of contact to the upper and lower rib, that to the centre ones. It will also make one piece top & bottom ribs more common, since if your wood is long enough, you would have to be pretty daft to cut it in half, only to have to make a joint afterwards. Roger has explored elsewhere what function letting the middle bout linings into the blocks could have. When you have finished, you will plane the ribs (incl. blocks & linings) flat, giving a flat gluing surface.

 

2) Outside mould. (as I learnt it from my father as a child) First the upper and lower ribs are bent and put into the mould, with the corners shoved hard into the corners. This makes a one piece top or bottom rib unlikely, since you can’t shove both ends into opposite corners hard at the same time. Then the middle rib is bent,and cut off first a little to long, then bit by bit shortened until it mitres into both the corners at the same time. For this reason, anyone but the most fastidious nutter, will mitre the corners a little sharper than necessary, so they fit tight right at the end (where you will see it from outside on the finished violin) and not at the inside of the mitre, which nobody, except a future repairman who removes a plate will see. Corner blocks will then be inserted afterwards (i.e. the opposite of inside mould) and will logically normally be more lightly to be an equilateral triangle from the plan view, i.e. same gluing area on both middle and upper/lower bouts. Then the ribs (incl. blocks and linings) are planed flat.

 

3) Building the ribs on the back, without a mould: First the back outline will be made (more or less). Then the ribs will be bent, or bought ready bent with linings on from the “Schachtelmacher” and tacked onto the back. The ends of the rib at the corners left long, so that you can get a cramp on to glue them together, and shortened afterwards, with the tendency to remain almost flush with the ends of the back outline at the corners. This method doesn’t necessarily require corner blocks and often doesn’t have any. When it does have corner blocks though, there are two different sorts to distinguish between. There were both “cosmetic” ones, just a bit of wood leaned against the corner to betray origin, and “proper” ones, inserted to hinder the rib corners from coming apart. These were fitted and inserted into the corners as the ribs were still tacked to the back. They fit well towards the inside of the back, but are cut off at a ca. 20° angle going into the rib corner, i.e. do not form part of the gluing area between block and back, but rather are just there to hold the ribs together. This can be well seen on a Schönfelder violin I have the back off in my workshop at the moment (J. C. Ficker did it too, and others), where one can be surprised to find that apparently perfect blocks have a hidden cavity, full of old glue. This is the “glue pattern” seen on the OP VSO. One should not make the mistake of saying that a fiddle with such a corner block must be Saxon etc. though, since I have seen the same when removing the back of instruments of the Gagliano family (no fear of this mistake in OP case though!), leaving me to wonder if they first learnt from some immigrant from Füssen or Vils, who earlier did it like that too.

 

Thus the significance for identification purposes. One knows for a fact that the Vogtländer/Egerländer used method No. 3, and Vienna/Prag/Mittenwald/South Tyrol makers No. 1 etc. and that method No. 2 was much later. Thus a violin with corner blocks as in method No. 1 can certainly not come from Markneukirchen, one that used method No. 2 can not be from early 19th C. Prague, a Bozen Jais can not possibly have been built using method No. 3 and so on ad infinitum. This is really useful when appraising for a court, where one is generally confronted with a room full of lawyers, who couldn’t tell a violin from a cello, but who will want FACTS and not opinions, although it won’t hinder the Ebay Mischpoche from arguing with you.

The traditional French way seems to have been a sub-version of method number 3, i.e. building on the back around corner blocks, which leaves the blocks covering more of the centre rib than the lower/upper ones. These French ones seem to have often used some sort of balsa wood looking lime, or similar as opposed to the Mark/Schön pine, but one cannot see that from a photo of a closed violin.

All things considered, I often find it scarcely possible to distinguish these two strains of violin, until I have it in bits on my bench. To positively distinguish between different geographies, one needs to distinguish features pertaining to the local building traditions, rather that arbitrary stylistic choices. Since I see no logical reason, why one sort of violin should be preferable (more expensive) than the other, we come roughly full-circle to the motivation question I started with.

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Post-Vuillaume the vast majority of French trade fiddles were made on an outside mould, simply because this is the quickest and most reliable way of getting a consistent result. I too think that some of the archaic Caussin-style instruments may have been built on the back (even perhaps the OP Ebay one), but this is the exception. Substantial blocks placed symmetrically in the corners (top and bottom) are the norm, along with very upright rib joints.

 

jacob, you suggest that the only possible reason for wanting to distinguish a French trash fiddle from a German one is money. On the contrary, the reason is because they are not the same - one is French, the other German. This is precisely the sort of pedantic distinction you have been teaching us for the last half-decade  :)

 

I agree with you that the majority of features found on a Caussin Shop or Caussin School violin appear on Mk/Sch - I said the same - but surely it's the totality that counts. There are hundreds of makers who produced violins with at least 90% of the knowable features of a Strad.

 

I also concur that if Mirecourt largely used an outside mold, this doesn't provide a point of difference with industrial MK work. When we compare Caussin Shop with Schoenbach cottage industry work we are not comparing like with like - if we want to make a valid qualitative comparison we would need to look at Mirecourt vs. instruments from bigger MK shops.

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jacob, you suggest that the only possible reason for wanting to distinguish a French trash fiddle from a German one is money.

I don’t think so, not really. Rather I was just explaining why I have never really bothered to spend any of my time or interest working the cheap French stuff out („Motivation“)

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NEVER, NEVER, suggest that there are no fine wines east of the Rhine! Easiest way to tick off a German or Austrian (or an adopted Austrophile). On the otherhand, the state of beer west of the Rhine could have been described as pretty woeful with the exception of the north and Alsace where good local small brews have been chugging along for centuries. Of course the artisanal small brewery movement has hit France as well, so if you're willing to shell out a lot of money for a small bottle, you can get good local beer in Paris now.

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If you really want to study the characteristics of French wines and wines of German speaking area east of the Rhine, the best way is to visit Wachau valley in Austria, as Mrs. Romberg Flat and I did this spring.

 

You can stay at the Hotel Stadt Melk in Melk where the kind owner, the Frenchman, will explain you everything you want to know about   difference between “wine-making schools of France and Austria”, on the bottled examples of both. Excellent French cheese is included.

Between drinking glasses of great Grüner Veltliner from Domäne Wachau, you necessarily have to visit the famous library in Melk Abbey and take a boat-tour on Danube, across the Wachau valley.

 

Hope little tourist promotion is not forbidden on this forum.  :D 

 

post-60277-0-36807500-1477224616_thumb.jpg post-60277-0-51404500-1477224653_thumb.jpg

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If you really want to study the characteristics of French wines and wines of German speaking area east of the Rhine, the best way is to visit Wachau valley in Austria, as Mrs. Romberg Flat and I did this spring.

 

You can stay at the Hotel Stadt Melk in Melk where the kind owner, the Frenchman, will explain you everything you want to know about   difference between “wine-making schools of France and Austria”, on the bottled examples of both. Excellent French cheese is included.

Between drinking glasses of great Grüner Veltliner from Domäne Wachau, you necessarily have to visit the famous library in Melk Abbey and take a boat-tour on Danube, across the Wachau valley.

 

Hope little tourist promotion is not forbidden on this forum.  :D [/size]

 

attachicon.gifHotel Stadt Melk.JPG attachicon.gifVineyard in Durnstein.JPG

You can actually take a Train trip through the Wachau, and have a look at the vinyards from the comfort of your sitting room:

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You can actually take a Train trip through the Wachau, and have a look at the vinyards from the comfort of your sitting room:

 

It took me some time for the train ride. Thank you very much. You are living in a really gemütlich corner of the world.  :wub:  

As I was already sailing from Melk to Krems by boat, and went back to Melk by bus, and now made a tour by train, remains my only balloon flight over Wachau.  :D 

 

Who knows maybe from heavenly heights could be found out, where is now hidden this mysterious Franco-German violin.  ;) 

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Now I bought a violin! :P
It is likely that you say as last time "worthless"
I paid $ 500, hoping to hear a good violin, I have found on $ 500 only Chinese violins that look like they are made of plastic in Tel Aviv.
I just want it to look and play better than them.
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