Seeking more information about this violin


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Hi everyone!

Recently, I broke a peg :( It fully snapped, and was lodged into the pegbox. I had to take the other pegs out to get a good, safe angle to tap it out (gently!). I am now in the process of trying to find a luthier in the Philippines that can get me set backup and running again (because the sound post fell)! However, I realized while dealing with all of this how little i know about my instrument. Here is what I know about the providence:

There was a doctor in Utah, Homer Clark, who followed his dream to, in addition to his medical career, became a luthier. During some world travels, he stumbled across a band with a violinist whom he enjoyed listening to, and apparently traded his instrument for the violinists then and there. This would, I believe, have been in the 70s or 80s. It then went with Dr. Clark and Dr. Clark's family until finally finding its way to me. I took it to a luthier for appraisal once, but the discussion was more about valuation than about anything else. In addition, I don't remember much about that discussion any more :/ I don't intend to sell the instrument. The label on the inside is a guadagnini 1773 label (so not very helpful).

I am especially interested in age and location of crafting. I think the appraisal may have said 1930s German? I am not confident in that guess at all.

The bridge was last set in 1973 (according to the date on the base of it) and there are no other markings of maintenance labeled. I assume that was the last time anything except for the strings were adjusted at all.

Also, I have just realized I'm a dummy and forgot to take a picture of the whole back... It is a one piece maple back with little flaming, and if it would help with insight I am happy to include that picture in the morning!

A few specific questions: First, in picture 7 below you can see a nail holding the neck in. Is that a thing that something that is normal or was the neck falling off and was fixed with that nail? Next, I believe that the purfling is real inlay and is not painted on-- I can see a change in grain direction when looking at it. However, in picture 8 it looks like the dark black part was "smudged" off, and yet the wood is still smooth and complete. What gives? Did the wood warp to fill the vacuum? Is it not actual purfling but is painted somehow? In picture 9, what are the three "stitches" that I can see through the end hole? In image 6 you can see strange diagonal cuts up the pegbox. What does that mean? 

Thank you for any thoughts or insight you might have!

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Edited by ATStapley
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I'm afraid I think that the stories you have been told about this violin are most likely just stories.

I also think it's unlikely that the bridge dated 1973 belongs to the violin.

I see a more recent piece of dirty antiqueing or at least a violin with relatively new varnish and faked signs of use. I can't answer your question about the purfling, though i have seen exactly this issue with a violin I knew to be a modern Hungarian/Romanian fake, but the ebony pin below the button is a non-functional piece of decoration which hopes to make the violin look a bit more Italian.

The neck graft is fake, done with a sharp object, also to make the violin look older.

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28 minutes ago, martin swan said:

I'm afraid I think that the stories you have been told about this violin are most likely just stories.

I also think it's unlikely that the bridge dated 1973 belongs to the violin.

I see a more recent piece of dirty antiqueing or at least a violin with relatively new varnish and faked signs of use. I can't answer your question about the purfling, though i have seen exactly this issue with a violin I knew to be a modern Hungarian/Romanian fake, but the ebony pin below the button is a non-functional piece of decoration which hopes to make the violin look a bit more Italian.

The neck graft is fake, done with a sharp object, also to make the violin look older.

Interesting, thank you! It definitely fooled a quite reputable luthier in Salt Lake City, so I wonder what happened there. 

How recent is 'modern' with the fake you encountered?

Edited by ATStapley
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Homer was a sweet man who helped many of us in SLC, as well as others all around the world.

That is most likely Homer's varnish. I would have to have it in hand to say for sure, but it wouldn't surprise me if it is one of his instruments. His instruments usually had real grafts, but I wouldn't put a scribed one past him.

Perhaps Larry F. will chime in.

p.s. Homer was a Physician and artist. Violin making came as a hobby/avocation, much later, and between that and the Hughes Foundation/estate, he was well taken care of and didn't need to cheat anyone for money.

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1 hour ago, duane88 said:

Homer was a sweet man who helped many of us in SLC, as well as others all around the world.

That is most likely Homer's varnish. I would have to have it in hand to say for sure, but it wouldn't surprise me if it is one of his instruments. His instruments usually had real grafts, but I wouldn't put a scribed one past him.

 

Very interesting - during which period was he making violins?

This is quite accomplished work for a hobbyist - do you think it's possible he was just practising varnish/antiqueing on a trade instrument?

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No, Homer was a world-famous artist, perhaps more infamous with his association with Hughes. He purchased, copied, and sold them when done, fine old instruments. I have a M. Bergonzi copy around here somewhere that he made. He copied many less well-known makers, and although sometimes rough, it was rough in an artistic way. Wenberg says that he was a clever copiest of classical instruments. I haven't seen a straight one, all that I have encountered were antiqued. Grafts, bushings, ect. 

Yes, he was quite accomplished as an amateur. I don't think that anything that he made would fool folks like ourselves, but the less informed might be taken in by some of his efforts.

He worked through the mid-70, I think, and passed not too many years ago.

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This might be some of his instruments.  In 2012 his widow donated 19 instruments he'd made to the former nec prep school.  "In 2012, Margaret A. Clark donated 15 violins and four violas, hand-crafted by her late husband Homer Clark, to SSC. SSC is pleased to make some of these instruments available on loan to scholarship recipients."

 

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We're misreading this poster.  I think the violin isn't supposed to be one Clark made, but the one he traded his for, presumably German like the expert the poster showed it to and Martin said.

"Homer Clark, ...During some world travels, he stumbled across a band with a violinist whom he enjoyed listening to, and apparently traded his instrument for the violinists then and there...It then went with Dr. Clark and Dr. Clark's family until finally finding its way to me. "

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Hi again, everyone!

Thank you guys so much for your time with this. Duane-- your speaking of Homer mirrors everything I remember hearing about him. He sounded like truly an absolutely incredible man. I was never fortunate enough to meet him, though I was fortunate enough to see (and hear!) some of his other instruments and one of his quartet paintings. One of his violins had an almost haunting quality to the deeper notes--- it was lovely.

I wish I would have recorded the conversation I had with the  person I purchased this from-- there is so much that I may be misunderstanding or misremembering. However, I am fairly confident on my memory of a few details. One, as Bill stated, I am pretty sure that Homer traded for this instrument during his travels in Europe. It is very possible, however,  that he redid the varnishing. I am also sure that the expert I took it to for a paid appraisal said that it was German made, and he either said 1930s or 1940s-- thinking back now, I don't think he considered anything on the outside of the violin at all, so my pictures are probably not helpful. He spent all of the time on identification with a dentist's mirror looking at the construction on the inside. Is there anything specific I would look for to identify the 30s or 40s German made instruments? 

Also, I figured this was not anything important-- but perhaps it is? The Guadagnini sticker on the inside has a dollop of varnish that fell on it at some point. Is that indicative of a revarnishing or just a mistake made during production? In the picture I uploaded-- it's a bit hard to see-- but you can see the spot of varnish if you peer straight through the f hole, covering a bit of the date.

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Edited by ATStapley
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