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Holmdale ("Art Nouveau") Violin pictures


Michael Richwine

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I still don't have modeling bulbs, but managed some decent "as found" shots that should give an idea of what I have to work with to people who have run into this sort of thing. Haven't done any tests yet. Gonna do some minor repairs, including a neck pullup and bushing a cracked peg hole, before I start working on varnish. biggest challenge will be to define objectives and limits. I don't want it to look "New", just more attractive to and ultimate buyer.  The legend inside  says it was made by Thurston Holmdale in Brooklyn, NY, USA, in 1918, from American wood, so I think we have basic origin questions pretty well settled. It's got virtually no playing wear on it, seems nicely made, and despite the strings, sounds like it has good potential.

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Looks a lot nicer in the new photos. On one corner it gives the impression the ribs are set in a groove in the back? The head is very nice but not so keen on the decoration down the back of the pegbox .

His name was Thorsten Holmdahl  he's a Swedish immigrant  and listed in the 1915 new York census as working as an artist. Says he'd been in the US for about 13 years in 1915. Sailed from Goteborg in 1901.

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Construction looks 100% conventional. Interior is deeply stained, so some construction details are hard to make out. It does have a two-piece bottom rib, and the pic shows about as much as I can tell about the rib corners, even with magnification. 

It makes sense that he would show up listed as an artist. I've looked at a lot of woodcarvings in person, including Riemenschneider, and this is pretty good work. The signature inside the violin looks like Thurston. May have changed it just to fit in better.  

Regarding the decoration: "De gustibus..." You are welcome to your opinion, and I won't even dispute it.

Rib .jpg

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Yes his name is spelled several different ways and probably changed it slightly to sound more American, But is wifes passport has him as Holmdahl officially . On other documents hes listed as a scenic artist. He served in WWI  and died in 1939 . He lived at 479 Park Place Brooklyn. Had a son Herbert Holmdale.

Hes also listed in the 1925 Brooklyn directory as the treasurer of the Tilford Cinema Corp at 160 W 45th and his wife was called Bertha.

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4 minutes ago, fiddlecollector said:

Yes his name is spelled several different ways and probably changed it slightly to sound more American, But is wifes passport has him as Holmdahl officially . On other documents hes listed as a scenic artist. He served in WWI  and died in 1939 . He lived at 479 Park Place Brooklyn. Had a son Herbert Holmdale.

Thanks! It's always nice to have some personal history associated with an object like this. Genealogical skills can be very useful, but apart from land records, I'm useless there.

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1 hour ago, fiddlecollector said:

His middle name was Hjalmar, and he was born on 18th June 1879 in Morlanda Goteborg.  His wifes maiden name is down in the US as Bertha Nelson but her real name was Bertha Elvira Nilsson Malmstrom.

It would be nice to see the documents that these were pulled from, if you can do screen shots.

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6 hours ago, Michael Richwine said:

I still don't have modeling bulbs, but managed some decent "as found" shots that should give an idea of what I have to work with to people who have run into this sort of thing. Haven't done any tests yet. Gonna do some minor repairs, including a neck pullup and bushing a cracked peg hole, before I start working on varnish. biggest challenge will be to define objectives and limits. I don't want it to look "New", just more attractive to and ultimate buyer.  The legend inside  says it was made by Thurston Holmdale in Brooklyn, NY, USA, in 1918, from American wood, so I think we have basic origin questions pretty well settled. It's got virtually no playing wear on it, seems nicely made, and despite the strings, sounds like it has good potential.

Body_as_found.jpg

BackAsFound.jpg

RsideAsFound.jpg

CBout.jpg

scroll4.jpg

Scroll1.jpg

Scroll3.jpg

Scroll7.jpg

scrollBack.jpg

It's fantastic!  You'll have no problem finding that one a home :) 

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25 minutes ago, Jeny Mahon said:

It's fantastic!  You'll have no problem finding that one a home :) 

I'm going to savor it and take my time, and do the best job I can on bringing out the beauty. Some of my customers are stage musicians and others are session musicians, so the word will get around in time. I figure about the time I get it looking and playing right, the right person will show up. It's not all about money.

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A quick search doesn't bring up anything else re violins in conjunction with Thurston Holmdale or Torsten Holmdahl.  He is always listed as an "artist" or "scenic artist", never as a "violin maker".  Unless others have knowledge of other instruments by him, I would be very skeptical that he was the maker of this violin.  In 1918 he was still signing documents, etc. using the original spelling of his name (Torsten Holmdahl), and it seems that if he was the maker he would have used that spelling rather than the "Americanized" version.   I also noted his documented handwriting and written numbers at the time were very neatly executed, as might be expected of an artist, and in contrast to the rather crudely made inscription inside the violin, although it is certainly possible someone else added the inscription later.  At any rate, someone with the ability to produce an instrument like this, would surely have made others.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Michael Richwine said:

I'm going to savor it and take my time, and do the best job I can on bringing out the beauty. Some of my customers are stage musicians and others are session musicians, so the word will get around in time. I figure about the time I get it looking and playing right, the right person will show up. It's not all about money.

Yeah, this seems like a nice slow burn project.

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4 hours ago, Ron1 said:

 I also noted his documented handwriting and written numbers at the time were very neatly executed, as might be expected of an artist, and in contrast to the rather crudely made inscription inside the violin, although it is certainly possible someone else added the inscription later.  At any rate, someone with the ability to produce an instrument like this, would surely have made others.  

I am an artist, and my handwriting is trash.  :lol:

Did he make the violin?  I don't see why not.  Artists often do random things seemingly outside of their profession for the fun of it... hobby or a gift.  In this case, his job of making scenery would involve detailed plans, painting, rough and finish carpentry, miniature mock up as well - fine skills.  And what was his past labor?  We have no idea.

If this was an attempt at presenting fake information, why?  Pulling this name out of the past would be an odd choice.  I'm glad that someone bothered to write it down.  What you said makes sense... a friend may have written the label using the publicly known 'American' spelling of his last name, vs the legal spelling. 

The theatre related newspaper clipping has his name spelled as inscribed on the violin, so all paper leads above seem valid.  There is also an Edward Holmdale relative/child in the fishing article, which might give you more genealogy.  Based on the matching scenic theatre article and the registration document with identical profession, these two names (although spelled differently) seem obviously linked.

Honestly, people changed their names on a whim in the past.  My wife's grandmother changed her last name on school documents when filling out forms.  Her brother was being bullied due to features of their Italian last name, so when registering at a new school she simply presented an alternate spelling on all paperwork.  It stuck. 

I was also getting hits for the maker Holmdale full name many times in Surrey, but it seems to be a town listed within an obituary.  From what I can tell, it's not a legitimate hit, not a person of interest... it's a place.

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Assuming the genealogical evidence fiddlecollector presented isn't a case of mistaken identity, the draft registration card has Holmdahl's signature (and handwriting).  Pretty obvious a sure-handed artist (including the work on the fiddle) would not have made that primitive label.

  

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2 hours ago, Blank face said:

I might repeat what I wrote in the other thread, that I found that type of varnish, crazed and darkened that way, untill now only at 19th century Mittenwald and English instruments. Mittenwald can be more or less excluded here, due to the visible constructional features.

100% agree about the absence of Mittenwald features, but I've run across this exact kind of darkening and contraction/ mudcracking in pure shellac finishes on late 19th/ early 20th Century furniture and architectural woodwork by the heap. I haven't tested it yet, but it is a major part of my decision process. I don't want to just wash it all off, but rather, conservatively mitigate the least attractive parts and preserve the rest.

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12 hours ago, Hempel said:

Assuming the genealogical evidence fiddlecollector presented isn't a case of mistaken identity, the draft registration card has Holmdahl's signature (and handwriting).  Pretty obvious a sure-handed artist (including the work on the fiddle) would not have made that primitive label.

  

It's not a label. Have you ever tried to write with India ink and a nib pen on the inside of an assembled violin rib? Harder than you might think. I worked as a civil engineering draftsman in my youth, and I can't do a good job of it. Here's an actual handmadeLabel.thumb.jpg.9c2117bcf4a9ef5792e967435174ca88.jpg label. I can get a better image, but the label is heavily stained and very low contrast.

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42 minutes ago, Michael Richwine said:

I've run across this exact kind of darkening and contraction/ mudcracking in pure shellac finishes on late 19th/ early 20th Century furniture and architectural woodwork by the heap.

Could you show some photos of identical cracking at furnitures? The picture shown in the other thread was very different in my eyes, and though I#ve seen a lot of crackling at old furniture shellac, too, it never looked like this varnish.

The other problem is that this person isn't recorded anywhere as a violin maker - to prove that it's really by him one would need to find some more believable violins to compare. OTOH this one looks like made by a professionel trained maker, not by an autodidactical artist who made occasionally a handful of violins, so there should be more to find.

 

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12 minutes ago, iburkard said:

Photo from 2007, finish reference only
~1920, Atlanta, no ID marks, no purfling, dark top looks stained, no decoration beyond wild scroll.  No more photos coming, this was the best that I could dig up.
 

image.thumb.png.282a8674b90016bbf41aa7fdcf14f5d8.png image.thumb.png.4f93dc641cd26f15b3e9083b95188467.png

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Is there a prove that this is from 1920? Or is it just what the internet or some spurious inscription is saying? That's exactly the defintion of the problem.

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