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Thomas Coleman

Del Gesu Messeas 1731 cello

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I thought one or two of you might find these interesting.  The photo quality is not great but they give a good idea of what this cello looks like.  A knowledgeable friend doubts that a scraper touched any part and I'm inclined to agree!   

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Thank you so much for the great pictures! I love the texture, it makes this large surfaces we see on cellos much more interesting. I am not completely convinced if the didn’t use a scraper at all. Especially your 3rd picture of the back shows clear plane strokes on a more or less smooth surface, which might be a result of a way too hasty use of scrapers.

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Loved it, loved the scroll, the texture. What wood is that?

I noticed also the the relation of the upper X lower corners is similar of that he used in his violins. 

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10 minutes ago, Julian Cossmann Cooke said:

Thank you for the great pics, Tomaso!  Taken with a maker's/restorer's eye for the details so important to us.

Haha!  I haven't been called Tomaso since I lived in Italy!  It was nice "hearing" it.  All photo credits go to W. Whedbee.

23 minutes ago, MANFIO said:

What wood is that?

I believe it's willow.

 

4 hours ago, Michael Szyper said:

I am not completely convinced if the didn’t use a scraper at all.

I have a bad habit of over exaggerating for emphasis.  I concede that a scraper may have touched the instrument, but wow!  Those toolmarks!  Obviously a different clientele than the King cello!

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6 minutes ago, Thomas Coleman said:

Haha!  I haven't been called Tomaso since I lived in Italy!  It was nice "hearing" it.  All photo credits go to W. Whedbee.

I believe it's willow.

 

I have a bad habit of over exaggerating for emphasis.  I concede that a scraper may have touched the instrument, but wow!  Those toolmarks!  Obviously a different clientele than the King cello!

WHEDBEE?! I can't go anywhere without seeing or hearing that name!  He's in my head!  He will drive me mad!  Now I understand where the expression "Where there's a will, there's a way" comes from.  Where there's a Will, there's a way cool cello.

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19 minutes ago, Thomas Coleman said:

Haha!  I haven't been called Tomaso since I lived in Italy!  It was nice "hearing" it.  All photo credits go to W. Whedbee.

I believe it's willow.

 

I have a bad habit of over exaggerating for emphasis.  I concede that a scraper may have touched the instrument, but wow!  Those toolmarks!  Obviously a different clientele than the King cello!

We seem to have this in common. Yes, I love the toolmarks!!!

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Remind me who Messeas was? He was a wandering preacher?

I tried researching him and got a nice little blurb courtesy of Tarisio but it was about Hill. Naught else.

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Are any DG violins finished this roughly?
I can see him being frustrated with the time and effort involved in working a piece of willow that size and swearing off cellos for the rest of his life. 

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I found that making an arch top guitar was more freeing, at least if I would have gone with simple cello purfling, and not fussy guitar edge work.  At least it is freeing if you look at it like this cello was made.  Let the arching flow, use your big tools, and forget the fussy stuff.  Yes, you can TRY to keep it clean, but the gouge marks are deep?

I'd probably make cellos if I could find a cheap piece of quartered willow or poplar to replace the back I have started, and finish that cello.  They look cool, and I'm not a fan of really high notes anyway.  I follow the bass line in almost every song.  Finding cello wood in lumber yards is even harder than finding viola and violin wood.  Everything online is a lot for a first one. 

It seems like the central area is pretty clean, only the recurve has a lot plane, or gouge marks.  String it up in the white, and thin it until it plays and sounds right?  Then varnish it and sell it.  It would explain instruments that aren't varnished under the fingerboard.  I know that some must do that today, but they might clean it up more.  Oded Kishony has talked about doing this many times here using a system that could easily be done by ear back then.

I even like the shape, and the corners over the usual.

 

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On 11/1/2019 at 10:56 PM, Thomas Coleman said:

I thought one or two of you might find these interesting.  The photo quality is not great but they give a good idea of what this cello looks like.  A knowledgeable friend doubts that a scraper touched any part and I'm inclined to agree!   

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I have zero knowledge on cello, but just think the roughness enhanced the depth and profoundness that make it extremely handsome

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9 hours ago, DoorMouse said:

Are any DG violins finished this roughly?
I can see him being frustrated with the time and effort involved in working a piece of willow that size and swearing off cellos for the rest of his life. 

Me too.  It has his fathers label in it and I like to imagine him cursing under his breath at his dad "mfpm frickin' frackin' stupid cello" :D

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I have been waiting for a specific someone else to chime in on this but it looks like he's not going to show up so I will.

In the eighties he and I and a couple of other people had access to the type of wood that the back of this cello is made from. It is an Italian willow tree that grows on the banks of a river. Basically the tree is an evaporative processing system: water comes out the top and minerals from the water stay in the wood. Working with this wood is like working concrete, and you hear crunching sounds as you are gouging, like you were gouging rock. Your tools immediately become ragged and impossible to keep them sharp. Scrapers quickly end up like saw blades, and leave wide tracks of parallel scratches . 

There were four or six of us who had access to this wood and I believe that each one of us only made one instrument from it before we gave up.

The wide marks that look like dragged fingers are finger plane marks; the scratches that are visible in some of the pictures are from scrapers. It's obvious that he only scraped enough to remove most of the finger plane marks but didn't get them all, because it is an evil wood to work. The reason there are more plane marks around the edges is because it is harder to scrape concave areas and constantly changing areas around the c bouts and corners, but it's easy to scrape the big broad areas that stick up in the middle of the arch.

You can see this type of markings on all of his father's willow cellos as well because they are the same wood, but never on violins, since the maple doesn't wreck scrapers in this way.

In short, it's not a del Gesu characteristic; it's a result of wood species and growth conditions resulting in wood that destroys tools. 

When this thread started I checked with a friend of mine who I knew had made with a cello out of the same batch of wood that I had made a viola from, and he said the same thing that I would and that is that both of these instruments were some of our better instruments made from any kind of wood other than maple. This wood is really incredible tonally but it's too much of a pain to actually use from day-to-day. 

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1 hour ago, glebert said:

Dumb question: why is it so shiny? Looks like it has a fresh coat of polyurethane on it. 

Probably French polished; a technique largely looked down upon today by restoration specialists.

N.B. Whedbee's shop is down the hall from Bein & Fuschia in Chicago (on the "Mag Mile" overlooking Lake Michigan) the firm that marketed the D.G. cello. I have it on the authority of an excellent player that he believed the attribution to be authentic, but of course there are only a handful of "experts" in the world on this sort of instrument, and considering the MSRP, I would only completely trust half of 'em.

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One should remember that this cello was created in the workshop of Joseph FA, and entered the world with his label, and presumably his invoice as such. Therefore it is IMHO a Joseph FA Cello, even if his son made a hash of it. That recent “experts” have promoted it to be a “DG” presumably for pecuniary reasons does not impress me.

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8 hours ago, AtlVcl said:

Probably French polished; a technique largely looked down upon today by restoration specialists.

True although not exclusively. I recently saw a very important violin up close that was recently old school French polished like a mirror. Conversely, some prominent restorers have gone completely the other way with a complete matte finish. Isn't the truth somewhere in the middle?

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So if the workmanship (or lack of) can be explained by the materials, what are the characteristics of this cello that are discernible as DG’s hand?  

FA was carving his son’s scrolls at this time so I’m assuming this is a FA scroll and the ff’s don’t strike me as distinctly DG so I’m guessIng it’s the arching and edgework?

 

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Michael, thanks for the explanation of the willow on the back, but the cool plane gouges are on the belly as well.  They show the way that the arching were worked.  

I found this photo of a 1694 Guarneri cello that looks very much like this Masseas. The human gives it a sense of size.  The Masseas is shorter in length, and the lower bout is a lot narrower than some that I have posters of.  Do you know if the arching is the same style on each, or is it markedly different?  This one is in, or was in, Chicago as well.  

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5 hours ago, scordatura said:

True although not exclusively. I recently saw a very important violin up close that was recently old school French polished like a mirror. Conversely, some prominent restorers have gone completely the other way with a complete matte finish. Isn't the truth somewhere in the middle?

What is truth? Practically every world-class violinist who appears on stage with me has an instrument that looks to have been French polished. Does that diminish its value?

And if you think yes, what if it was being played by Perlman?

I have it on excellent authority that there was a period when every string instrument that came thru Moennig's was French polished. Was it for pecuniary marketing purposes? (he asks rhetorically...)

These things go back and forth. For myself, I happen to think the matte finish is plain and ugly. That said, and speaking strictly as a player, if the instrument of my dreams happened to come that way, I wouldn't be sending it back with an ungrateful scowl.

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38 minutes ago, AtlVcl said:

What is truth? Practically every world-class violinist who appears on stage with me has an instrument that looks to have been French polished. Does that diminish its value?

And if you think yes, what if it was being played by Perlman?

I have it on excellent authority that there was a period when every string instrument that came thru Moennig's was French polished. Was it for pecuniary marketing purposes? (he asks rhetorically...)

These things go back and forth. For myself, I happen to think the matte finish is plain and ugly. That said, and speaking strictly as a player, if the instrument of my dreams happened to come that way, I wouldn't be sending it back with an ungrateful scowl.

It is funny you mentioned Perlman. I remember a while back when his violin (not sure if it was the Soil) had the Moennig Gold oval on the tailpiece. At a concert it was so shiny that when he moved a certain way it created quite a reflection--almost blinding for a second. 

The rationale in the old days was the French polish was "protecting" the varnish (in addition to the gloss). My own opinion is that somewhere in-between really glossy and very matte is the answer.  I do not want to "out" the violin or restorer I mentioned above, but when I saw it I was a bit sad that it had been so radically French polished. The last time it was not that way.

Interestingly enough, Bein and Fushi has moved to a decidedly anti French polish/gloss stance of late. I wonder if they did not mess with the DG (or filius) cello in this thread when they had it. That or someone after them polished it. I will ask my friend there what the story is on this cello next time we talk.

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