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Turin School violin - does anyone recognise this?


Giovanni Valentini
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This is a violin I am stuck with. Perhaps someone on this forum happens to recognise the maker or knows whom to ask.

The two-piece back of medium curl, the table of exceptionally narrow grain (ca 220 rings per half!), the varnish of a gold-orange colour, the length of back 14 1/8in (358mm). Peter Ratcliff has dated the latest year rings of the table to 1681 and 1682 and concluded that the growth data has strong correlations with other Italian instruments of the 17th century, including one by Cappa. I have had suggestions of Turing school / characteristics of Cappa / possibly Catenar, but nothing very firm yet.

What Julian Hersh says in his article on Cappa on Tarisio's website about the finish, the purfling, and the choice of wood rings very true for this one I think.

The label reads:IOFREDVS CAPPA FECIT
SALVTIIS ANNO 16<39>
 
Any help is much appreciated. Thanks!
 
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violin side.jpg

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Hi, nice fiddle! I am no authority on Cappa, but I have had a soft spot for this maker for a long time.

Have you seen the short contribution by John Dilworth about an early Cappa on the website of Ingles & Hayday? The instrument there shows the features you describe about your violin's finish and purfling. Also the mitres are equally random (if I may say so):

 

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I&H also recently sold a Cappa dated 1695 that had similar features:

 

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I think that the instrument at Tarisio's which you reference has many similarities yours (albeit with a slightly slimmer waiste line:)

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I also had the chance to handle Richard Gwilt's Cappa a few years ago, and it had a very similar feel to it.

Does yours have the ribs set into a channel in the back? That could indicate a very early date, still reflecting Bavarian rather than Italian traditions.

Hope that helps.

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11 hours ago, Bowjob said:

Does yours have the ribs set into a channel in the back? That could indicate a very early date, still reflecting Bavarian rather than Italian traditions.

According to Phillip J. Kass, these construction method was adapted from French making: https://tarisio.com/cozio-archive/cozio-carteggio/violin-making-in-turin-part-1-1650-1770/

In the 17th century there was hardly something like a Bavaran tradition of violin making, even Füssen (which isn't Bavarian but Suebian) started much later coming from older viol and luthe types to violins.

Nonetheless the questions for these rib channels and the way of neck attachment (if original) are most highly interesting.

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Hi, thanks for the really helpful information!

The neck is nailed on, but it is not the original. it was 'baroqued' some 20 years ago.

The ribs are definitely not set into a channel in the back. With a latest year ring of 1682, i.e. a date of probably not before 1690, this would make the violin a little late for this type of construction I guess.

@MS: Thanks, I will contact Julian Hersh in the hope not to bother him unduly!

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2 hours ago, Giovanni Valentini said:

The ribs are definitely not set into a channel in the back. With a latest year ring of 1682, i.e. a date of probably not before 1690, this would make the violin a little late for this type of construction I guess.

Thanks for this observations.

I don't think it's possible to say that the ribs construction witn channels would be "late" for the 1690s, because Kass stated clearly that it was still done this way by Celoniato till the 1740s (and by other schools much longer unto the 19th century), but if it was overworked later and the channels planed out?

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Interesting violin although based on these pics I don’t see it as a Cappa.
 
I might feel differently if I saw it in person but aspects of the instrument don’t fit for a Cappa such as: the edgework; the f-hole’s and especially the wings which don’t have the right swing to them; and the proportions of the scroll (perhaps not original to the body?) especially from the front view which should have a more classical look; etc…. 
 
Regarding the ribs being set into the back I have personally only seen one Cappa made like this which is the one sold by Ingles & Hayday some years ago. There must be others but Cappa certainly didn’t make as frequent use of this technique as Catenar and some of the other early Turin makers. My personal guess about this is that Cappa started by utilizing this technique but once he saw an Amati he adapted. 
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Thanks again for all the helpful comments.

@J.DiLisio:The fingerboard is close to the table, but not as close as the photo may suggest. There are still a few mm air at the tightest point.

@Julian Hersh: Thank you for your pre-emptive strike. Do you know if Cappa ran a larger workshop with apprentices? I have been researching this instrument for years and have shown it to many people and always end up back with the Turin School (despite the apparent lack of rib trenches) and, let's say, the Cappa circle (if there is such a thing). It had once crossed my mind that it may be Flemish, but the dendro-results say otherwise (plus I can't find any Flemish maker whose work is particularly close).

Or am I barking up the completely wrong tree here?

@Germain: Thanks for the tip. I have had that pleasure and was not particularly impressed. I think the good people of this forum offer more valuable help at a better price ;-)  -- which is not to say that I am not happy to invest way more than $60 in a solid certificate!!!

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1 hour ago, Giovanni Valentini said:

I have been researching this instrument for years and have shown it to many people and always end up back with the Turin School (despite the apparent lack of rib trenches)

I think one information we've got here was that the (early) Turinese not always and invariably used the rib trenches, but OTOH you're surely not alone with the experience that some instruments can't be identified clear and easily.:) Another key word is "it might look different in person".

For me it would be very interesting to learn, if they used a through neck in combination with this construction method (though there might be not many with an untouched neck, if any at all)?

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I have found no evidence of Cappa having an apprentice or a large shop. The examples of his work that I accept as genuine are very consistent and appear to be the work of a single maker. Having said that there is a bit of a mess with all the fake labels in various early Turin violins. 
 
Early on many of these early Turin violins were relabeled and sold as Amati’s. In a letter Paganini even commented about the problem of fake Amati labels in Cappa violins. A little later many of these early Turin violins were relabeled again but this time as the work of Cappa. This was likely motivated by profit as Cappa was, at this juncture, the most well known and valuable of these early Piedmont makers. 
 
So there were various styles of work being lumped together as Cappa. Fortunately as I said before Cappa’s work is quite consistent and recognizable so it is possible to distinguish his work amidst the confusion with the labels. 
 
I do think Gindin is sharp so you might still consider sending pictures to him to see if he has any bright ideas. I would also add that Phil Kass is a great resource for Piedmont violin making. When I was working on my article about Cappa and doing some other studies on 17th/18th Turin makers Phil was very helpful. Not only because of his knowledge but also his generosity in sharing it. So you might consider contacting him as well. 
 
Good luck with it!

 

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