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Josep J. Ruiz

Composite old violin ID

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Hello all,

To make my first restoration attempt I bought this old composite violin. In the state it arrived to my hands part of the back and scroll was partially covered by a green (!!!) varnish but after remove it the violin looks better. Unfortunately to me was impossible to recover all the original varnish...

In my humble opinion, the scroll, ribs and back reminds me of some XVIII century 'tyrolean' (I don't know if this name is appropiate) instruments. On the other hand, I thought the top is from some german workshop but this F holes are similar to some Mirecourt from middle XIX century. Obviously this piece was fit with the incomplete violin with no historical criteria but it has similar contour and purfling to the back and some of the same brown varnish still present on the ribs ( and were also some remains near the upper botton). For this reason I think the top was made ex novo during the XIX century to replace the original top after a traumatic accident. 

Anyone of you experts can tell me if I'm in the correct way in my considerations? Do you think is possible to know some more concrete data with the photos? Do you think I removed acceptably the modern varnish? Please, don't say 'you ruined the violin so throw it in the bin'...It's only my first attempt to restoration and I would like to learn more about this field :P 

Thank you all in advance! 

 

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I’m supposing you thought of Mittenwald, which is north of Tyrol, and that’s where this could have been made roughly in the early 19th century. The top seems to match the rest very well in my eyes, except that the varnish is much better preserved.

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Thanks for the answer!

In fact I bought as an original violin from early XIX century, or at least this was my first impression seeing in photos. Once arrived the parcel with the violin I detected the big different preservation of the brown varnish, as you have noticed also. With a better exam I concluded there are two different layers of varnish (obviating the green I told previously) on the back but just one on the top. Also I found some differences at the corners (in the top are more flattened than the back but ith almost not worn). Then I started to think in a composition and when I saw inside I observed a really strong preservation of the wood between the top and the rest (I tried to photograph this but not possible to take good images): the wood of the top is almost perfect, with no restorations and no big damages, old but with a good light brown. The rest of the violin inside is almost black, with some important old restorations, also darkened. This difference is too big to be natural. 

For these reasons I'm pretty sure is a composition but as you told me both sides fit very well, so I guess is because the top was carved starting from the measures of the damaged older violin. 

The condition of the instrument is close to being playable, so I tested its sound with a G string, which seems very powerfull and deep. Perhaps (I'm just speculating) an old violinist wanted to preserve his own instrument after an accident because it was appreciated for its sound and charge its reconstruction. 

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Until the 20th century it was probably not so important to keep the originality of every instrument as it’s today, so you might be right that the belly is a later “custom made” replacement. Difficult to tell from the phone screen pictures. So the rest could be a pre 1800 Mittenwald.

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The only ways to be sure a top is not original are if the purfling material or method is different, or if the top simply doesn't fit the rib outline.

Tops and backs wear quite differently depending on how the instrument has been maintained and stored. The inside of a belly can often look quite clean, partly because instruments stored on their backs don't accumulate dirt on the underside of the top, and partly because tops come off more often and tend to get cleaned. Table corners and edges are much more vulnerable than back corners and edges.

I may be wrong but in this case I would be more inclined to think that the back and ribs have been poorly refinished - perhaps the back got stuck to the felt of a violin case or something like that ...

I agree with Blank face, rather nice early 19th C Mittenwald, albeit with a brick in the back. I'm not sure it's a great candidate for practicing restoration since the main thing it needs/needed is very expert varnish cleaning and retouching.

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Thanks to all for the answers again.

1 hour ago, martin swan said:

The only ways to be sure a top is not original are if the purfling material or method is different, or if the top simply doesn't fit the rib outline.

Tops age quite differently depending on how the instrument has been maintained and stored. The inside of a belly can often look quite clean, partly because instruments stored on their backs don't accumulate dirt on the underside of the top, and partly because tops come off more often and tend to get cleaned. Table corners and edges are much more vulnerable than back corners and edges.

I may be wrong but in this case I would be more inclined to think that the back and ribs have been poorly refinished - perhaps the back got stuck to the felt of a violin case or something like that ...

Completely logic when you say the tops are usually more glossy than the backs because they can be cleaned and they don't accumulate so much dirt but this is not the case in my opinion. A pity that I can't show you clearly how the belly looks in this case because I do no dare to open the instrument but I can assure you the colour of the back and ribs are dark not only by the dirt. The wood looks much more ancient and darkened until the upper edges (with restorations in the back and ribs) but suddently the top is exceptionally well preserved and without damages. In my opinion the violin was old when the top was made. 

Another think:  There is a label from italian maker from XVIII century. You can imagine why I didn't take a photo of it :P 

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Following the Martin Swan suggestion I left the violin in the hands of a luthier to reconstruct the varnish and make the setup. Definitely this is not a restoration project to me. After an exam, he confirmed is a composite violin, with a later belly. A pity but still ok if the sound is nice. 

During these days I was trying to identify the maker/school of origin of the violin, of course ignoring the belly in my proposition. At first I was comparing with some Klotz and 'Klotz-like' instruments but they did not convinced me because in my violin the corners are relatively wide despite the similarities of the scroll. After check lots of violins from different Mittenwald makers from 1750 to 1850 I found one from another zone which seems really similar: Ignaz Hoffmann 'the young'. What do you think seeing the photo for comparison of the back? I see both of them almost identical...

 

 

 

hoffmann comparación.PNG

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In my experience a very common old Mittenwald outline. All those makers were in a relation to each other, family, training, employees etc. using similar patterns, so it's a stretch to make such a conclusion to a particular maker by this only.

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 Yes but this particular maker comes from Wölfersdorf, far from Mittenwald. Surely you have the reason when you say the outline is typical from this last zone but I was surprised because I checked decens of mittenwald violins (most of them similar to my one as expected) from decens of makers and for the moment this violin is the only one I found with an equivalent outline. In the source of the photo is mentioned the instrument is 'attribued to', so perhaps is simply from Mittenwald. 

In any case, is possible to have access to images of more violins from this maker or locate the (probable) workshop of origin based in the back and scroll? I know the commercial value of the violin is not so high due is a composition but would be very good to me know more about the violin I purchased. If the result of the restoration is good I have the intention to play it.

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1 hour ago, Josep J. Ruiz said:

Yes but this particular maker comes from Wölfersdorf, far from Mittenwald.

This violin back you're showing doesn't look like from Wölfelsdorf/Glatz and not like a Hoffmann from there. I was wondering about which Mittenwald named Hoffmann you were talking. Have you a link to see the rest of the violin?

We had a lot of discussions reg. Wolfelsdorff/Glatz and showing some instruments featuring their typical models, you can compare.

 

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31 minutes ago, Blank face said:

This violin back you're showing doesn't look like from Wölfelsdorf/Glatz and not like a Hoffmann from there. I was wondering about which Mittenwald named Hoffmann you were talking. Have you a link to see the rest of the violin?

We had a lot of discussions reg. Wolfelsdorff/Glatz and showing some instruments featuring their typical models, you can compare.

 

Here's a link showing several images of the violin. Also there is another example attribued to Ignaz Hoffmann the young on Bonhams, with a similar outline. 

https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C1GCEA_enES785ES785&biw=1600&bih=740&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=M8shXY2_DYqo1fAPsd60oA0&q=hoffmann+ignaz+geige&oq=hoffmann+igna&gs_l=img.3.0.35i39.53952.56467..57805...0.0..0.88.1074.13......0....1..gws-wiz-img.......0j0i67j0i8i30j0i30j0i5i30.ahp_f_x3I7w#imgrc=DzzqvANWM3rUrM:

The violins present in the discussion that you have shared are clearly different to my violin, much more elongated. I suspect the example I found in google is simply a Mittenwald one from end of XVIII century. In any case I find both of them really similar in purfling and outline, more than any other violin of which I have seen. 

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I have to admit I have no idea about who and why is attribued to Hoffmann. I found on the internet and I assumed it's a Hoffmann (I had no knowledge about this maker). Whatever is it I think the outline and purfling are extraordinarily similar to my violin. Have you any idea about which maker/gruop of makers can be linked in my case? I found also this Georg Klotz from Martin Swan shop, which is obviously more well done than my violin but similar also in outline. Nonetheless I don't think the instrument amb asking for identification have nothing to do with any Klotz member because seems they made the violins with more accuracy. 

https://www.martinswanviolins.com/georg-kloz-violin-mittenwald-1772/

 

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As others have said, this is a pretty standard Mittenwald model ...

Ironically when looking at your photo of the back of the "Hoffman", I merely thought "why can't that be a Georg Kloz"?

All of this illustrates the perils of using Google to find reference examples!

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As I have pointed out many times before, in order to attribute a violin on it’s features, one needs a whole list of features where one can tick boxes off. For instance, does it have linings let into the corner blocks, yes/no: does the fluting go all the way to the end of the scroll throat, yes/no;  Does the bottom of the back of the scroll have a sort of triangular delta at the bottom, yes/no etc. etc. also the outline is a „feature“ but taking one feature on ist own is far to little, and will lead to ridiculous results (like here). Also if you wish to compare with a reference example, you must assiduously verify that the reference example is beyond reasonable doubt.

 

 

 

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45 minutes ago, martin swan said:

As others have said, this is a pretty standard Mittenwald model ...

Ironically when looking at your photo of the back of the "Hoffman", I merely thought "why can't that be a Georg Kloz"?

All of this illustrates the perils of using Google to find reference examples!

Using an inside mould and copying this from master to pupil, from cousin to cousin etc. can result in very similar outlines. Of course the Georg or other 18th century Kloz can look very similar from a back view, as do instruments by other makers, and same might apply to Hornsteiners. The Mittenwald museum website gives some examples. It's a rather subtle work to distinguish between all this close related makers, and maybe a lot of "esoterics" involved.;)

http://www.geigenbaumuseum-mittenwald.de/index.php?id=105

Google research produces mostly not only "attributed" but simply mislabelled or faked stuff, so it's worthless in this regards if one doesn't know whom to trust.

Edit: Jacob once more beat me in the most points.:D

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I understand perfectly when you advertise me about search in google. As a paleontologist, many times I have received requests from amateur fossil collectors asking me about their identification on some particular fossil compared with google images. My response is always recommend to read (not only see photos) scientific papers about the same group/ geographic zone/geologic formation of the specimen before do determinations because the internet information are commonly not very reliable. On the other hand, as a beginner in the world of old violins I have to admit I have no good references with graphic contents (apart of this forum) to compare a particular instrument, and most of diagnostic features of the violins are still a mystery to me. I'll try to photograph the zones pointed by Jacobs once the instrument is restored.

I hope you understand me when I see google and think finally I found the maker of my violin, with a wrong results as you detected. Anyway, if is impossible to identify a particular maker of the instrument I always have the 'School of Klotz' wildcard used by some people :P 

1 hour ago, Blank face said:

Using an inside mould and copying this from master to pupil, from cousin to cousin etc. can result in very similar outlines. Of course the Georg or other 18th century Kloz can look very similar from a back view, as do instruments by other makers, and same might apply to Hornsteiners. The Mittenwald museum website gives some examples. It's a rather subtle work to distinguish between all this close related makers, and maybe a lot of "esoterics" involved.;)

Tnanks for the link. Seeing days ago this web page I started to know about Georg Klotz violins. 

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