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Learning some French


Guido

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On my bench at the moment is an example of previously discussed French cornerblockogoly, originally presented by our head cornerblockologist some years ago.

I attach a photo of the lower treble block to illustrate the shape with the much longer end running into the c-bout.

It seems a (small-ish) sub-school of French making that may be useful for ID purposes if better understood or traced in linages.

The example on my bench is not identified, but maybe someone can help with that?

Of note, is also the ridiculously small lower block; and the undercut f-holes in particular in the eyes, giving a crisp impression form the outside.

 

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In a nutshell, I'd be curious about four things:

1. Any more info on the use of this building method in terms of time/place/makers. I think @Michael Appleman mentioned Aldric/ Pique/ Bassot and predecessors plus some Mirecourt and the odd isolated maker (without giving any more names apart from the aforementioned). That was about five years ago. Maybe we have new members or the plot has thickened for someone willing to share info on this "school" or building tradition in France.

2. I have seen these undercut f-holes on one other violin, a Breton (possibly by the man himself); but not at any of the many other Mirecourt violins I have around between 1760 and 1850. So, what's up with these undercut f-holes? Who did that? Does it go hand in hand with this corner block shape or is it some other tradition mixed/ crossed in?

3. Same with the tiny bottom block. Don't know if the top block is original but it is really small, too. Maybe I didn't always pay attention, but this is certainly the smallest lower block I have ever seen. Is there anything to it? Come to think of it, the second smallest block I have ever seen was in above mentioned Breton, but it was of a very different shape closer to a half circle.

4. Any specific ideas who made the op violin are welcome.

P.S.: French numbers are just plain crazy. You have to be on your toes if the only way to say "ninety two" is as "four times twenty plus twelve" :blink:

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At the risk of creating a confusing thread here is the Breton. The corner block shape is similarly asymmetric, but maybe a little less pronounced. The lower block is also very small, and the f-holes are undercut in an identical manner.

The blocks are spruce, whereas the op is willow.

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33 minutes ago, Guido said:

 

P.S.: French numbers are just plain crazy. You have to be on your toes if the only way to say "ninety two" is as "four times twenty plus twelve" :blink:

That's what I meant. You can get a Hotel room or a Beer with grunting and pointing, but the numbers need a weekend of practice:)

French violins aren't my territory, but I would have thought the blocks and the undercut fholes were ubiquitous to 19th C Mirecourt, so that even the French won't be able to say which one made what

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8 hours ago, Guido said:

Of note, is also the ridiculously small lower block

Is it really, though?

For close to 150 years, it has done its job fine, so it's hard to say really that it is too small.
On many old instruments, the lower block was replaced when the ribs were shortened, so in a lot of cases for instruments made without moulds, we no longer know easily, the dimensions of the original block.

That this one is cracked, has nothing to do with the dimensions.

 

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15 hours ago, Guido said:

1. Any more info on the use of this building method in terms of time/place/makers. I think @Michael Appleman mentioned Aldric/ Pique/ Bassot and predecessors plus some Mirecourt and the odd isolated maker (without giving any more names apart from the aforementioned).

4. Any specific ideas who made the op violin are welcome.

P.S.: French numbers are just plain crazy. You have to be on your toes if the only way to say "ninety two" is as "four times twenty plus twelve" 

Hello Guido,

If I brought up parisian makers and early Strad "copyists", it was probably to mention the transition towards more "cremonese" looking interiors, which really shows up in Lupot's work. Around the end of the 18th century, there were more and more Strads in Paris as stars like Viotti made a huge impression playing on them. Makers had them in for repairs and sales, and started to look inside, but meanwhile Mirecourt went on making violins with their traditional method, and as Jacob Saunders rightly pointed out, these features, are pretty ubiquitous. In fact, it's one way to tell if an externally good looking violin came from a big name Paris shop or a "humble" Mirecourt workshop. I've got a Maggini inspired violin which looks externally like it might be from the Bernadel shop, but inside the work looks like Mirecourt. It's unsigned, and it isn't possible to identify it as the work of any one maker or shop.

The OP violin looks nice, and something like what the Couturieux shop put out, but without a signature or a brand, pretty tough to give it a clear attribution. 

French numbers might seem tough, but the hardest thing about speaking the language is pronouncing it. When I arrived in France I was already very proficient at reading and writing the language, but it took me over five years to get the brand of cigarettes I wanted first try at a tabac. Try saying "Rothmanns rouge" in a way that a french person will understand! I don't even want to think about trying to buy a "Trou du Cru" at the cheese shop... 

 

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Thank you @Michael Appleman It's always great to hear and learn things that I don't see every day on this forum.

Is there any good reference one could read up on French construction methods? For instance how does the building-on-the-back-with-ribs-in-a-channel compare to the building-on-the-back-with-bocks-glued-on-first both in time and location? And when/ where/ how were these methods replaced? I guess Mirecourt would have moved to an outside mould to speed up production at some point?

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It would be nice if there were books or articles that could give a clear picture of who did what and when, but I'm not aware of any, and in anycase, there's a lot of overlap and cases where one sees different methods coming from the same workshop, as though some days they did one thing and on others they tried something else, or one day one workman did the back and ribs, and at another time another workman was doing that job differently while using the same model.

As a general rule, though, one sees the groove in the back on older french work, from the end of the 17thc to the end of the 18thc. French makers I've seen with a groove include Pierray, Bocquay, Guersan, Gaffino, Castagneri, Salomon and Frebrunet. BUT I've seen some of these makers without a groove as well.

Big blocks and no groove may well have been present all along the 18thc, but Chappuy is a notable example from the end of the century. I've seen other violins from the 2nd half of the 18th made that way, and this seems to be the prevailing method in Mirecourt until the mid 19th.

We should be careful, though, about drawing too many conclusions about how they were working. If you look at the illustration of a lutherie workshop in the Diderot Encyclopedia (published between 1751-1777), there is clearly an outside mold hanging on the wall. If you look at the relics form the Vuillaume workshopk you'll find an inside mold as well as an outside mold. In the Dubroca-Alexander bow shop around the corner form me, they've got an interesting relic that looks like it's from at least the mid-late 19thc. It's a collapsable full violin mold, with both internal and eternal molds fitting together in a way that could allow you to use either or BOTH at the same time!

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5 hours ago, Michael Appleman said:

It would be ... time!

Thanks for taking the time to elaborate. I'm soaking it up like a sponge.

I guess my paradigm is based on Mittenwald (and related) vs. Saxony, where any violin making outside the local tradition seems almost unconceivable :-)

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  • 4 weeks later...

Found a signature of the person who made the fingerboard, may or may not be the person who made the violin. The neck is also grafted adding to the likelihood of a replaced fingerboard.

However, the fingerboard is rather thin, and hence could also be original.

Even though the writing seems clear enough, I don't recognise the name. @Michael Appleman or anyone else able to make sense of it?

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24 minutes ago, Guido said:

Found a signature of the person who made the fingerboard, may or may not be the person who made the violin. The neck is also grafted adding to the likelihood of a replaced fingerboard.

However, the fingerboard is rather thin, and hence could also be original.

Even though the writing seems clear enough, I don't recognise the name. @Michael Appleman or anyone else able to make sense of it?

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For me it reads Masson - Cozio offers Masson Frerés and Masson, Sylvie, unfortunately without bio informations. But it is a relatively common name.

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25 minutes ago, Blank face said:

For me it reads Masson - Cozio offers Masson Frerés and Masson, Sylvie, unfortunately without bio informations. But it is a relatively common name.

Thanks, that's probably it.

I was going though the list of Mirecourt names without success. W/o bio, Cozio may not have them under Mirecourt.

I was also unsure about the second and last letter.

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3 hours ago, Blank face said:

For me it reads Masson - Cozio offers Masson Frerés and Masson, Sylvie, unfortunately without bio informations. But it is a relatively common name.

Wow! The cozio archive exceeds the speed of light. For Sylvie Masson, they have one auction result, a bow which will have failed to sell next week.

No mistake, the bow is indeed being offered at this time, with the auction closing next week.

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