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Is this tatted up runt of a violin a long way from home? Why does it even exist?


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Edit: this violin is actually slightly over 19” long, lob is 11.5ish. So maybe between 1/4 and 1/2.

 

If you would be so kind to study the images posted below and give your comments. What are we looking at here?

The seller thought it was an American folk violin.

Total Length of this violin is 11-1/2" (494mm). Very small.

It has a saddle made of bone that is not pictured.

Who might have made this and for what purpose? We discussed these tiny violins on another couple of threads where the strongest ideas about the original purpose of tiny well-made violins was boiled down to: 1.  High end Doll accessories, and 2. Curiosities/photography props. Even this instrument would surely be too small to be used because a 1 year old can't typically be trusted with a violin and is too young to really learn. Given that this instrument hasn't been smashed, what's going on here? Is this something a sailor found floating at sea? Was it Tom Thumb's violin? All comments and opinions are encouraged.

I'm not claiming this is well made, it looks pretty boorish yet has a charm to it.  Any idea about age or origin?

 

small-unpurfled-violin-1.jpg

small-unpurfled-violin-2.jpg

small-unpurfled-violin-3.jpg

small-unpurfled-violin-4.jpg

 

Screen Shot 2018-12-07 at 11.48.31 AM.png

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The total length of the violin, if it is 494 mm, would not make it that small. The body is more than half the total length, and so it would be a 1/8 size violin or larger. However, the total length is also given as 11 1/2", which is less than 300 mm. So if the metric size is a typo for 294 mm, then, yes, a violin with a body length smaller than 200 mm is indeed very small, less than 1/32.

However, given that a six-year-old child is less than half as tall as an adult, it may well be that someone would have felt that such a small violin was the right size for such a child, even if the convention today is to use one that is larger. Had the length been 194 mm instead, I'd agree that it was virtually certain that it was intended for a doll or otherwise to be looked at but not played.

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The first thing I ever had to do at my first job as a luthier was to fit a soundpost in a 1/16 violin.  It was a new outfit...the shop had a lot of rentals in fractional sizes.  It wasn't uncommon to see 4 or 5 year olds come in and get fitted with something that small.

I would guess somewhere in time there was a young kid that wanted to play violin, so a relative with a workshop set about to make it happen.  It looks like the purfling and drawings were made at the same time with the same marker...so that's pretty sweet to imagine a craftsman trying to make it fun for the youngster.  Somebody obviously cared enough for it to try and fix it at one point.

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21 minutes ago, Quadibloc said:

The total length of the violin, if it is 494 mm, would not make it that small. The body is more than half the total length, and so it would be a 1/8 size violin or larger. However, the total length is also given as 11 1/2", which is less than 300 mm. So if the metric size is a typo for 294 mm, then, yes, a violin with a body length smaller than 200 mm is indeed very small, less than 1/32.

However, given that a six-year-old child is less than half as tall as an adult, it may well be that someone would have felt that such a small violin was the right size for such a child, even if the convention today is to use one that is larger. Had the length been 194 mm instead, I'd agree that it was virtually certain that it was intended for a doll or otherwise to be looked at but not played.

Nice. I'm from the USA so I read total length 11.5" and assumed that was the total.

I have it in my hands now and you're right. the total length is about 19.125" and the LOB is about 11.5". Not the tiny thing I was expecting. Interesting nevertheless. It's bigger than my 1/8s so maybe it is 1/4 or even 1/2?

Screen Shot 2018-12-07 at 12.49.54 PM.png

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If it was for a doll - the doll must have played it a lot...and it must have sounded good, or why bother to cleat the cracks?

My guess:  Made for a child as a gift by someone with basic skills - such as grandpa.  Child then decorated the front at some point in time...maybe after they outgrew it...

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p.s.  regarding the glued in sound post, I can see that happening too, someone didn't want to go to the trouble to cut a new one for a violin that wasn't being used, or being used enough.

And regarding grandpas...mine made me a bed for my Barbie.  My Dad refused to buy me Barbie accessories, so Opa made me a bed using the wood from an orange crate, and two of my Tantes made bedding for it.

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I think in rural parts makers learned by reverse engineering whatever fiddle was at hand, usually a cheap old Saxon or similar. Back when I used to roam around the hills of PA I'd occasionally see through-neck fiddles like this that were attributed to some old timer.

But for some reason I think this one was originally from Europe, maybe decorated here in the US. I cant back that up in any way though, just a suspicion.

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I'm at a crossroads here. I thought this was a very small violin when I purchased it. Now wondering if I should keep it since it's kind of cool, or to return it since it's not 1/8 or less. I was hoping to limit my further collecting to 1/16 or below unless there's a very cool 1/8. So this 1/4-1/2 sized instrument is a giant compared to what I typically want. Hmmmm what to do...

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6 hours ago, Matthew Hannafin said:

The first thing I ever had to do at my first job as a luthier was to fit a soundpost in a 1/16 violin.  It was a new outfit...the shop had a lot of rentals in fractional sizes.  It wasn't uncommon to see 4 or 5 year olds come in and get fitted with something that small.

I would guess somewhere in time there was a young kid that wanted to play violin, so a relative with a workshop set about to make it happen.  It looks like the purfling and drawings were made at the same time with the same marker...so that's pretty sweet to imagine a craftsman trying to make it fun for the youngster.  Somebody obviously cared enough for it to try and fix it at one point.

Thank you for your input. The repairs took place within the last few weeks.

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6 hours ago, Rue said:

If it was for a doll - the doll must have played it a lot...and it must have sounded good, or why bother to cleat the cracks?

My guess:  Made for a child as a gift by someone with basic skills - such as grandpa.  Child then decorated the front at some point in time...maybe after they outgrew it...

Now that we know it's not tiny, but somewhere between a 1/4 and a 1/2, do you have the same theory? The clacks were cleated recently, in the past few weeks.

 

6 hours ago, Rue said:

p.s.  regarding the glued in sound post, I can see that happening too, someone didn't want to go to the trouble to cut a new one for a violin that wasn't being used, or being used enough.

And regarding grandpas...mine made me a bed for my Barbie.  My Dad refused to buy me Barbie accessories, so Opa made me a bed using the wood from an orange crate, and two of my Tantes made bedding for it.

Pics of the miniature bed?

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5 hours ago, deans said:

I think in rural parts makers learned by reverse engineering whatever fiddle was at hand, usually a cheap old Saxon or similar. Back when I used to roam around the hills of PA I'd occasionally see through-neck fiddles like this that were attributed to some old timer.

But for some reason I think this one was originally from Europe, maybe decorated here in the US. I cant back that up in any way though, just a suspicion.

Thank you for your post. This fiddle was allegedly from the PA region, American made. However someone out there could probably see the difference between a local USA inspired-by violin and a European one. Any views that would be helpful that aren't already shown?

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5 hours ago, fiddlerjer said:

Cool, that crackled varnish looks like leather.

One of the most appealing things about this violin to me is the crackled varnish and old tattoos. The look and feel of this thing is what's making me consider keeping it despite being over 1/8 sized.

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4 hours ago, Rue said:

Well, since your not playing it, it would make a nice contrast to it's little brothers and sisters on display...

My available wall space if now used up and my overflow is stored. It does look cool next to the others though. Thanks! Do you like it? Would you want it on your wall?

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3 hours ago, BassClef said:

Thank you for your post. This fiddle was allegedly from the PA region, American made. However someone out there could probably see the difference between a local USA inspired-by violin and a European one. Any views that would be helpful that aren't already shown?

Unfortunately I never payed enough attention to things like this back then. Im sure there are still guys around that might know, its just a matter of finding them.

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14 hours ago, BassClef said:

Now that we know it's not tiny, but somewhere between a 1/4 and a 1/2, do you have the same theory? The clacks were cleated recently, in the past few weeks.

 

Pics of the miniature bed?

Yes.

I still have it. But it's packed away.

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