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Ludwig Neuner puzzle


Michael Richwine
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I have a fiddle in my shop with an apparently untampered Ludwig Neuner Berlin label from the 1890s. Lovely Strad-style varnish with a high refractive index, great color. Body length 355mm (calipers). Fair amount of playing wear, but otherwise very good condition. Sounds great, compared to other violins in my shop. Based on looks, sound and label alone, I would have priced it fairly high. but then I take a closer look: It looks BOB; the corners of the plates are flush with the rib corners. The ribs are pinched together. The fluting on the scroll is a little short, but goes around to 7:30 compared to my clock face. All signs of Schoenbach work. The lower blocks look asymmetrical, which had me going for a moment, but there are no upper blocks at all.

Neuner worked for Vuillaume for six years or so before he set up on his own in Berlin. I read that he had as many as 200 workers and produced various grades of instruments. What labor pool did he have to draw from? Did he buy parts / bodies from Schoenbach/ MNK?

More important to me is how do I present this to customers? As a product of the Ludwig Neuner shop(s)? As a top-grade Schoenbach violin via Neuner?

This is a new one to me. I need some perspective other than my own. My shop is full of workmen, so can't take proper pics right now.

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2 hours ago, Michael Richwine said:

Did he buy parts / bodies from Schoenbach/ MNK?

Probably. My understanding is that there was very little actual violin making in Berlin at that time. Louis Lowendall used to stamp his violin as from Berlin, but they were all (or mostly all) cottage industry dutzenware.

2 hours ago, Michael Richwine said:

More important to me is how do I present this to customers? As a product of the Ludwig Neuner shop(s)? As a top-grade Schoenbach violin via Neuner?

From your description, I don't see how it could be a "top-grade Schoenbach violin." Is the wood nice? 

Seems like it could best be described as a German violin bearing the label of Ludwig Neuner.

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1 hour ago, GeorgeH said:

Probably. My understanding is that there was very little actual violin making in Berlin at that time. Louis Lowendall used to stamp his violin as from Berlin, but they were all (or mostly all) cottage industry dutzenware.

From your description, I don't see how it could be a "top-grade Schoenbach violin." Is the wood nice? 

Seems like it could best be described as a German violin bearing the label of Ludwig Neuner.

That was my limited understanding as well.

Wood is very nice; not spectacular, but very nice indeed. Varnish is very nice. Sound so far is terrific on first impression. Will have a firmer impression after I've had a chance to tweak the setup and have some clients try it out. 

1890s was late in his life, and Jalovec's observation may be right on, thanks. I was just a bit surprised to see that style of work from a shop run by someone with his background. I have handled a lot of Mittenwald trade violins, and they generally perform very well for my market.

 

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It's necessary to understand that Ludwig Neuner was the heir and single owner of the Neuner & Hornsteiner firm, a very wealthy and surely very occupated businessman and had this 200 or more homeworkers in Mittenwald, where they made instruments in the local tradition, meaning exclusively using an inside mould. These were labelled with the firm name or sold unlabelled to dealers. During his time in Berlin he made very few and very fine instruments, and only these were bearing his personal name, probably more as a sort of after work activity and also as an advertisement for his firm. If he would have wanted to use prefabricated parts for this instruments he had more than enough from the Mittenwald production for free.

Therefore the probability that a Schönbach/Markneukirchen violin (or made from parts of this origin) was offered with his firm or personal label is far below zero, no matter how convincing this label might appear.

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1 hour ago, Brad Dorsey said:

Impossible.

Not if, as some of us suspect, Blankie isn't always operating in the same universe as the rest of us.  :huh: :lol:

IMHO, dogmatically pontificating on what a German violin wholesaler of that period wouldn't do in pursuit of profit is as risky a course as blindly trusting labels.   The safest course would be to note "bearing the label of", and price it in line with its player utility.  :D  Didn't somebody already suggest that?  :)

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1 hour ago, PhilipKT said:

I think Brad was talking about physics. It is impossible to have a less than zero chance of something.

So was I.  Do a search on "exotic probability", "complex probability", etc.  Negative probability is in the same bag of weird (and controversial) theoretical tricks as dark energy and negative mass.  :).

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6 minutes ago, Brad Dorsey said:

And imaginary numbers.

Complex variables aren't nearly as abstruse as exotic probability, but yeah, sort of.  Feynman used to draw an analogy between negative quantum probabilities and debt in economics, but didn't get much traction with it.  There's other ways to skin Schrodinger's cat.  :lol:

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