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Last month I purchased an “old French violin” from a gentleman in Ventenac-Cabardes, France.  It is labeled:

"Alex-dre DELANOY à Bordeaux, élève de JB Vuillaume, 1914". The violin also has a hand-inscription above the label "Modèle d'après Guadagnini" as pictured below.

So, I’ve been told to be highly skeptical about labeling in violins with no validated provenance.  My luthier in the Washington, D.C. area is not an expert in old European violins, but he said it is certainly an older instrument and in very nice condition.  He believes it is of French origin, and postulates it may have been made by JTL in the early-mid 1900’s. 

I Googled JTL and see it was a mass-production Mirecourt workshop from the mid-1800’s until about 1970.  Wiki shows many names used on JTL production labels, but Alexandre Delanoy is not among them.  Interestingly, in his early days, Jérôme Thibouville was a partner in the instrument maker Husson-Buthod-Thibouville, and Delanoy apprenticed under Buthod in JB Vuillaume’s workshop in Paris. Not sure if there is anything to make of that indirect connection, but still interesting.

My violin instructor is a well-credentialed professional free-lance violinist on the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore music scene.  Last night he saw my new “old violin” for the first time.  I must say, it sounds magnificent in his hands!  He was very impressed and said it is a very nice instrument.  He too thinks it is from France.  He pointed out the “mascara” along the edges of the scroll, and told me that is typical of French violins (although I don’t know if mascara on the edges is a characteristic unique to French violins). He also told me it “sounds” like a French violin.  I don’t know how a French violin sounds versus a German, Romanian, Italian, or Chinese instrument, but after playing it, my instructor agreed this is a French violin.

So, I enjoy reading many of the Maestronet Forums topics and posts.  I think there are many members who genuinely know what they are talking about.  I would greatly appreciate hearing your thoughts about this violin.  Do you agree it was likely made in France in the early 1900’s? Is it possible that this violin actually came from Delanoy’s Bordeaux workshop? If so, what are you seeing that supports that opinion?  If not, why not?

I’m anxious to hear your thoughts and grateful for your input.

 

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Edited by KB_Smith
corrected a spelling error
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I'm only a Player with an interest in Instruments, so please rate my judgement of the insrument bearing this in mind. 

To me this Looks like a stripped and clumsily revarnished Instrument, that likely was made in the Markneukirchen area. The Things that Point in this direction are the Corners of the ribs, which Show the seam Right in the middle, the scroll fluting which Ends 6 o'clock, the "Delta" at the chin of the pegbox, the blackening of the inside of the pegbox. Look inside to see if it has all four Corner blocks (they shouldn't be there, but even if they are there, they could be fakes or added later on). The Stripping and revarnishing is visible since the varnish Shows a strange texture on the Surface, and the "antiqueing" in many places, in particular on the scroll, but also other hard to reach places, Looks like left Overs from the old varnish. The Darkness of the rib Corners is caused by the old varnish that soaked in there (end grain) during the Stripping process. The blackening of the Pegbox chamfer, which one sees on many French Instruments, is done too clumsily to be from a master makers Hand and Looks much too new, compared to the rest. I wouldn't be surprised if it is alkyd based. 

All in all, you have a functional, but almost valueless Instrument in your Hands.

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Hi KB_Smith

I'm afraid I agree 100% with baroquecello, in fact I couldn't have put it better. That list of features is spot on, though I would add the mis-shapen lop-sided button, the . massive neck root/thumb stop, the blackened pegbox interior and the edgework.

I also immediately thought that the violin had been revarnished and that the inking was new and clumsy.

The label is clearly fake, and I have never seen a violin where the model is written on the wood rather than the label. Sorry to say but this looks very much like the work of the various Manouche dodgy dealers in the South of France.

It has absolutely nothing to do with Delanoy.

I would also caution anyone against drawing conclusions about the origins of a violin based on either the sound or on a single easily generated feature like scroll inking.

On the plus side, if you like the sound then it's not all bad!

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I feel sad for the OP to a point.

Once again we see how easy it is to flog rubbish to the unwary, those who do no research first, or when the need to get a bargain outweighs common sense.
This is then backed up by someone who is supposed to be a luthier, but clearly can't tell what they are looking at, or even judge the quality, notice that the label was printed last week, and that the violin has just been revarnished!
Then the tutor weighs in with how magnificent it is to play, and "it sounds French".

If you don't know what you are buying, you really need to find a good shop and go there for some advice, take things out on trial etc.

On the plus side, if the tutor loves it so much, maybe you can negotiate a deal with them, to swap it for their violin.

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Funny, I always  associate  a heavy neck root (or shallow  thumb  stop) with Mirecourt - It's one of the tell tales I look for. But this just isn't it.

There's  a  class of violins  that we called  'German in the French  style'. I was told they were actually  trying  to  imitate  Mirecourt  work. But their  carving  techniques  must have been different,  and they  never quite  look French.  The necks  always  look German too.

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Thanks so much for your comments, expertise, and advice. I'm not at all surprised to hear you all agree this is not an authentic turn-of-the-century French violin of any value. I was cautioned more than once not to buy an instrument on eBay, and actually, not to buy any instrument I could not try first.  So, I knew I'd be taking a chance buying anything on eBay, but I thought there is a chance the instrument could be what it is represented to be if it actually came from France (or Italy or Germany), rather than the USA - where most of the counterfeit junk is from China. 

I'm new to the world of stringed instruments, so I have no idea what features to look at.  I would never recognize any of the faults baroquecello listed.  It is interesting that my luthier also told me the instrument appeared to have been re-varnished at some point. I also have no capability to look inside for missing corner blocks - why would they be missing?  Aren't corner blocks a necessary support structure when building any VSO? Do the cheap copy instruments just go without, or is there another reason they would not be present?

I'll settle for a minor win with Martin Swan's closing comment, "On the plus side, if you like the sound then it's not all bad!" The instrument does sound very nice in capable hands.  So I guess I can take the positive view that it only cost me $365 plus shipping and a few hundred dollars in work from the luthier to have a functional instrument that sounds good. I'll tell myself it is probably a nicer instrument, or at least one with a better story behind it now, than if I had purchased a $800 instrument from Amazon or a local music shop.

Not to sound as if I'm desperately hanging on to my now-dashed hopes, but just wondering if there is anyone out there who might not agree with baroquecello or Martin -- who sees signs in this violin that it might actually be old?  Was it even made in France?

By the way, can any of you point me to a Maestro Forums thread where the business of producing and selling counterfeit copy instruments is being discussed?  I wonder where do these come from, who is producing them, and how do they make a successful and profitable business out of it trying to compete with legitimate businesses producing instruments with an honest label?  This is probably a discussion for another thread, so if any of you know where that discussion has already been discussed, please send me a link (or several)...perhaps the "South France" discussion in the Auction Scroll mentioned by Blank Face?  Where is the Auction Scroll?

I really do appreciate your comments.  Thanks.

 

Edited by KB_Smith
fixed a typo
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3 hours ago, martin swan said:

How would that have happened if the violin has been stripped and revarnished?

The violin could have been stripped, the wing fluting carved, and then revarnished using a darker color in those areas.

3 hours ago, Wood Butcher said:

Once again we see how easy it is to flog rubbish to the unwary, those who do no research first, or when the need to get a bargain outweighs common sense.

True, but if the OP thinks it sounds good, is set-up properly, and plays well, then purchasing such a violin for under $400 isn't too bad if he is going to play it. So there's at least that.

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I concede that's a possibility but I think it's quite far-fetched. If you were going to put that much effort into something as neither here nor there as wing fluting, you would expect a bit more antiqueing effort on the remaining 99% of the body.

It's much more likely there was some fluting already and that whichever a***hole stripped and revarnished the violin couldn't think how to strip that bit.

I would guess, now that our suspicions about the provenance are confirmed, that whoever put in the label (recently) didn't do the revarnishing, but did do the crappy inking.

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20 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

True, but if the OP thinks it sounds good, is set-up properly, and plays well, then purchasing such a violin for under $400 isn't too bad if he is going to play it. So there's at least that.

I have no idea what was paid, but I would agree that for €350 or less, one could do worse.

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I have a new-guy question.  I write responses, but my comments are held up for moderator review for many hours. Is that simply because I'm new and have not made many posts yet?  At some point will my posts go live right away - seems all of the other posts in this thread, many made well after I've submitted my comments, go live long before my posts can be viewed.

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By the way, I reached out to the guy in Southern France who sold this violin to me and asked where he got it and if he knew anything of its provenance.  Here is what he told me:

"I am not such an expert in violins, I simply have a great network of people retrieving violins all over France and that I highly respect. I try to talk to them as my clients would, which means that they have to carefully inspect the violin, see the soundpost areas, confirm if the wood and varnish looks old...well the basics. This Delanoy violin was bought from one of my contacts in Bordeaux, and then it could very well come from the Delanoy workshop, however as you understand I do not qualify to certify anything, just the provenance and the way I bought it."

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3 hours ago, Wood Butcher said:

I have no idea what was paid, but I would agree that for €350 or less, one could do worse.

I bought it for $365 (USD) or about €350.  I paid $80 for shipping to the US plus $21 tax.  My luthier told me he had to plane the neck down from about 30 degrees to 27 degrees and the fingerboard was cracked, so he replaced that with a new fingerboard. He also cut a new bridge and a new sound post and I had it strung with Dominant G, D, A, and Pirastro Wondertone Gold E.  The lutherie totaled $430 for all the described work.  So, my total investment in this violin is about $900 (~€800)

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1 hour ago, KB_Smith said:

I have a new-guy question.  I write responses, but my comments are held up for moderator review for many hours. Is that simply because I'm new and have not made many posts yet?  At some point will my posts go live right away - seems all of the other posts in this thread, many made well after I've submitted my comments, go live long before my posts can be viewed.

Yes.... New members posts are reviewed before release.  You'll go "live" after 10 posts are approved.

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@KB_Smith It is a bit unfortunate, I do think you overpayed. But you are Right, 900 for a good sounding violin is ofcourse not a lot of Money, and if you are going to Play it for a Long time, then it is not so bad after all. There is no shame in loving a cheapo if it gives you the Sound you want! 

About the "missing" Corner blocks, they are not really missing. It has to do with the method of construction. Basically, there are three different ways to construct the ribcage of a violin. Nowadays the prevalent one os to build around an inside mold, you will be able to find examples of this in a lot of bench threads in the contemporary makers Forum. This is the method that was used mostly in Cremona (but it is not strictly cremonese!). Another ethod is to do it the other way round and construct the rib Cage with an outside mould. This was very popular in France in the 19th century, but again, not exclusively there. The third method would be Building on the back, for which there are several ways of doing it. One way would have been to carve out a channel in the back and set the ribs in that channel, glueing them together in the Corners. (the early French method) Another would be to sort of pre glue the ribs together, then glue them onto the back, modifieing the shape of the rib Cage so that it resembles a violin, then filing off the excess from the Corners. This leads to the seam being in the centre of the Corner. This is the case with your violin. Such a construction does not equire Corner blocks. This type of construction was prevalent in much of southern Germany/czech republic etc, but there were also early italian makers that employed this method. None of the Methods are inherently superior, all have different Advantages and disadvantages. The 2nd Bob method however became the method of the violin making Industry around Markneukirchen, where many not so well sounding, cheap trade violins where constructed. Consequently, it in time by association was viewed as an acoustically inferior method, even if this is not necessarily the case. Because of this, makers using this method started putting in "fake" Corner blocks, often not more than a small piece of Wood, to obscure the construction Methods, so the violin would be viewed as superior. That is the short Explanation.

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16 hours ago, KB_Smith said:

This is probably a discussion for another thread, so if any of you know where that discussion has already been discussed, please send me a link (or several)...perhaps the "South France" discussion in the Auction Scroll mentioned by Blank Face?  Where is the Auction Scroll?

The Auction Scroll is one of the other Maestronet message boards you'll find when clicking on the top line. Faked, facsimile or just randomly reproduced labels, inscriptions and brands were produced since some hundred years at a thousand places, so it's useless to ask each time "whodunnit?" But here are two of the threads where the South French Connection was discussed, the instruments being discussed aren't visible anymore but the questions. BTW, there are other infamous origins like "notorious Hannover".

 

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15 hours ago, KB_Smith said:

 

Not to sound as if I'm desperately hanging on to my now-dashed hopes, but just wondering if there is anyone out there who might not agree with baroquecello or Martin -- who sees signs in this violin that it might actually be old?  Was it even made in France?

 

 

Just to clarify, the violin is old, probably around 100 years old, but not made in France.

The response you received from this seller is typically disingenuous ...Bordeaux is the centre of this trade in pimped up rubbish.

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This is the (rather defunct) website of the seller, in which he declares that he specialises in fine antique violins etc.

http://www.violonsanciens.com

Basically the good stuff used to go on this website - the rest ends up on Ebay under a number of different Ebay handles, which can then be used to bid up the items.

None of this is stuff you could take someone to court for, but if buyers knew the whole picture they would surely behave very differently.

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11 hours ago, baroquecello said:

@KB_Smith It is a bit unfortunate, I do think you overpayed. But you are Right, 900 for a good sounding violin is ofcourse not a lot of Money, and if you are going to Play it for a Long time, then it is not so bad after all. There is no shame in loving a cheapo if it gives you the Sound you want! 

About the "missing" Corner blocks, they are not really missing. It has to do with the method of construction. Basically, there are three different ways to construct the ribcage of a violin. Nowadays the prevalent one os to build around an inside mold, you will be able to find examples of this in a lot of bench threads in the contemporary makers Forum. This is the method that was used mostly in Cremona (but it is not strictly cremonese!). Another ethod is to do it the other way round and construct the rib Cage with an outside mould. This was very popular in France in the 19th century, but again, not exclusively there. The third method would be Building on the back, for which there are several ways of doing it. One way would have been to carve out a channel in the back and set the ribs in that channel, glueing them together in the Corners. (the early French method) Another would be to sort of pre glue the ribs together, then glue them onto the back, modifieing the shape of the rib Cage so that it resembles a violin, then filing off the excess from the Corners. This leads to the seam being in the centre of the Corner. This is the case with your violin. Such a construction does not equire Corner blocks. This type of construction was prevalent in much of southern Germany/czech republic etc, but there were also early italian makers that employed this method. None of the Methods are inherently superior, all have different Advantages and disadvantages. The 2nd Bob method however became the method of the violin making Industry around Markneukirchen, where many not so well sounding, cheap trade violins where constructed. Consequently, it in time by association was viewed as an acoustically inferior method, even if this is not necessarily the case. Because of this, makers using this method started putting in "fake" Corner blocks, often not more than a small piece of Wood, to obscure the construction Methods, so the violin would be viewed as superior. That is the short Explanation.

Thank you very much!

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