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Interesting system to draw Cremonese violin outlines


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I just returned from the yearly assembly of German violin makers. One lecture on the program was a talk by Simone Zopf, teacher at the Fachschule für Kunsthandwerk und Design in Hallstatt/Austria (section violin making)

So, for those who are interested in this: In a demonstration with participants we were drawing an Amati outline in a pretty quick way (15 minutes if you memorized the steps, see below)  IMG_2410.thumb.jpeg.4e3d5b29931ef6f4af1f11f51ffbdc04.jpeg

IMG_2411.thumb.jpeg.b8f66b67b93b87979882324af628db79.jpeg

It is based on the unit of 18.66mm and is able to draw the outline of a Andrea Amati violin.
————

After the talk there was some discussion concerning the idea to take the actual outline as the reference for a geometrical construction system. Some violin makers argued that it is more logical to take the inside mould as reference for a construction system. 

Note: the pictured drawing was a finished sample provided by Frau Zopf. I personally don’t like the form of the corners, but I admit that a drawing is one thing and constructing a violin from there is something else.

Most interesting point was for me an explanation for a hexagonal drawing found on the carving mould from the Stradivari workshop which apparently served as a reference for measurements. (Sorry, I have no picture of it) 

For more information 

www.amati-inch.at
 

 

Edited by Andreas Preuss
Correction.
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I may seem to sound sceptic but I've already tried about every of published methods of drawing "Amati", "Stradivari" or whatever Cremonese violin shape and also tried many my own measuring/drafting excersises including about dozen of historic inch measurements or my own guesses (IIRC I've tried also something that is almost exactly the number of the above work). If you consider that in some divided the measurement units to 12 parts while some to 10 parts. So you have zillion of options many of which will be able to aproximate the radiuses or widths to some degree.

It all boils down to what you consider "close enough" and how you deal with possible deformations and original imprecision caused somewhere between the ideal theoretical construction, it's application on paper (using 16th century drafting tools), then it's transfer to wood form and then the violin made upon the form and finallty the outline of top that is often not matching back (because the "Amati method" as described by Hargrave) and then centuries of wear and being under tension and humidity cycles and repairs etc. There are three or so well known "methods" of drawing violin that claim to be the real deal and they are often quite different from each other.

Also working with photographs is tricky and art to itself to transfer the pictures to 2D without deformations caused by optics. Getting RELIABLE and good measurements of the old instruments is hard work and I've spent many hours comparing measurements of single instrument (Plowden) from various sources only finding out that none are completely reliable and only after many hours of comparisons of good photograhs, posters, scans resized to various proposed sizes I found an educated guess that is a COMPROMISE that seems to be the best fit over the data but I wouldn't claim any historical exactness.

I gave up the idea of finding the original idea because resources of quality are extremely slim and one would have to get precise measurements of original unaltered instruments of Andrea, Brothers' and possibly Nicolo and first do all the measuring and getting precise idea of the original patterns (small violin, large violin, viola, contralto, cello etc...) and not just take one random photo off the internet and apply circles that to some degree looklike a violin.

IMO, the above work looks nice from perspective of high-school student work but still long way from plausible recreation of original Amati geometry.

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I have looked at a lot of methods also.  They all seem like a lot of after the fact curve fitting, including this one.

The method of Francois Denis makes more sense and is simpler and easier a mon avis.  

  The most interesting one so far, for me anyway, is the three bar linkage method.  The entire outline of a violin seems to be curves of varying radius and the three bar linkage is the only thing I know of that achieves that in a simple way  

At some point, I would like to publish some analysis and ideas but I'm in the middle of a build so it will have to wait until after that is finished.   

Designing a violin outline with compass circles seems akin to designing a french curve drawing tool with compass circles.  Which brings up an interesting question,  how are french curves originally designed?  Well to answer that question, a quick google search leads down the rabbit hole of the Burmester curve set...  

 

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2 hours ago, HoGo said:

I may seem to sound sceptic but I've already tried about every of published methods of drawing "Amati", "Stradivari" or whatever Cremonese violin shape and also tried many my own measuring/drafting excersises including about dozen of historic inch measurements or my own guesses (IIRC I've tried also something that is almost exactly the number of the above work). If you consider that in some divided the measurement units to 12 parts while some to 10 parts. So you have zillion of options many of which will be able to aproximate the radiuses or widths to some degree.

It all boils down to what you consider "close enough" and how you deal with possible deformations and original imprecision caused somewhere between the ideal theoretical construction, it's application on paper (using 16th century drafting tools), then it's transfer to wood form and then the violin made upon the form and finallty the outline of top that is often not matching back (because the "Amati method" as described by Hargrave) and then centuries of wear and being under tension and humidity cycles and repairs etc. There are three or so well known "methods" of drawing violin that claim to be the real deal and they are often quite different from each other.

Also working with photographs is tricky and art to itself to transfer the pictures to 2D without deformations caused by optics. Getting RELIABLE and good measurements of the old instruments is hard work and I've spent many hours comparing measurements of single instrument (Plowden) from various sources only finding out that none are completely reliable and only after many hours of comparisons of good photograhs, posters, scans resized to various proposed sizes I found an educated guess that is a COMPROMISE that seems to be the best fit over the data but I wouldn't claim any historical exactness.

I gave up the idea of finding the original idea because resources of quality are extremely slim and one would have to get precise measurements of original unaltered instruments of Andrea, Brothers' and possibly Nicolo and first do all the measuring and getting precise idea of the original patterns (small violin, large violin, viola, contralto, cello etc...) and not just take one random photo off the internet and apply circles that to some degree looklike a violin.

IMO, the above work looks nice from perspective of high-school student work but still long way from plausible recreation of original Amati geometry.

I posted it here to hear different opinions on Zopfs findings. I am also hesitant to accept it as the ultimate truth, especially when it comes to cover all violin makers of different schools. But anyway interesting enough to discuss. 

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1 hour ago, Andreas Preuss said:

I am also hesitant to accept it as the ultimate truth, especially when it comes to cover all violin makers of different schools.

Let's examine a single geometric system that can come close to the outlines of Cannone, Lord Wilton, and Vieuxtemps.

Why bother with all of that geometry stuff when you can just get a poster?  Even for designing my models for CNC, I didn't bother with any "system", but just messed around with arcs and splines until it looked like what I wanted, and what I wanted was based on looking at a number of TheStrad posters.

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44 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

Why bother with all of that geometry stuff when you can just get a poster?  

To answer that question, for me, it's part of an insatiable curiosity to know, not just violin design but everything. 

Actually, I know everything... I just can't remember most of it.  :D 

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1 hour ago, Don Noon said:

Why bother with all of that geometry stuff when you can just get a poster?  Even for designing my models for CNC, I didn't bother with any "system", but just messed around with arcs and splines until it looked like what I wanted, and what I wanted was based on looking at a number of TheStrad posters.

Because reverse engineering and immaculate conception tickle different parts of the fancy. For some people the method is as moving as the result.

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If there was documented evidence of a particular geometric system that was used, or a logical argument beyond a reasonable doubt... that would be one thing.  However, from my superficial glance at these geometric systems, they appear to just be messing around with circles until they kinda get close-ish.  My fancy remains untickled.

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3 hours ago, MikeC said:

I have looked at a lot of methods also.  They all seem like a lot of after the fact curve fitting, including this one.

The method of Francois Denis makes more sense and is simpler and easier a mon avis.  

  The most interesting one so far, for me anyway, is the three bar linkage method.  The entire outline of a violin seems to be curves of varying radius and the three bar linkage is the only thing I know of that achieves that in a simple way  

At some point, I would like to publish some analysis and ideas but I'm in the middle of a build so it will have to wait until after that is finished.   

Designing a violin outline with compass circles seems akin to designing a french curve drawing tool with compass circles.  Which brings up an interesting question,  how are french curves originally designed?  Well to answer that question, a quick google search leads down the rabbit hole of the Burmester curve set...  

 

The three bar linkage is moved around with another three bar linkage--finger, wrist and elbow.

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One thing that sticks out to me again and again is how seldom even great artists are able to even capture the general outline or essence of a violin or viol family instrument in a painting. It always seems elusive. Vermeer does rather well but others don’t even seem to get it at all. I realize this isn’t the same thing at all but rather an attempt at a system to enable a maker to draft an outline of an instrument in order to make a mold and ultimately make the instrument. A system of drafting and proportion like a Vetruvian Man for a violin. There seems to be something ineffable in the instrument that is resistant to any attempt. I often think that there may have been some happy accidents along the way or simply Grandfather Andrea got a request for an instrument of a certain size and musical compass and he sat down at the bench with som rib stock and a plank for a mold and worked out something that made sense and was workable. 
 

DLB

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27 minutes ago, Dwight Brown said:

I often think that there may have been some happy accidents along the way or simply Grandfather Andrea got a request for an instrument of a certain size and musical compass and he sat down at the bench with som rib stock and a plank for a mold and worked out something that made sense and was workable. 

Violin makers prefer that the method be something much more exotic, likely involving  Galileo or Da Vinci. :D

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The violin shape has often been compared to the female form, and perhaps it was derived from what was considered the most ideal female form of that time.  If it was derived in America today, the upper bouts would be larger.

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4 hours ago, Don Noon said:

Let's examine a single geometric system that can come close to the outlines of Cannone, Lord Wilton, and Vieuxtemps.

Then why do you bother at all? Wouldn’t it be more unique to design the ‘High-noon-model’ and make it look like the female contour you would prefer? 

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1 hour ago, Don Noon said:

The violin shape has often been compared to the female form, and perhaps it was derived from what was considered the most ideal female form of that time.  If it was derived in America today, the upper bouts would be larger.

..and the lower bouts would be really wide. 

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Often the drawings look good only while they are superimposed upon pictures of original instruments. Once you put the drawing in thin ink lines on a blank page it looks strange, not Cremonese or smooth at all. Sometimes the circles miss the outlines by a mm or more which is awfull lot IMO. Often difference between Guarneri and Strad is much less than that and the only larger deviation is at corners.

I assume that the very original design was somehow geometrically derived perhaps utilizing some nice number ratios for starting proportions as was fashionable in architecture of the times, but that may only be applicable for ole Andy A. and maybe Brothers. Later the makers might just start copying the forms while moving bouts out or shifting back and forth to get slightly larger form without any need of drafting. I'm pretty certain that could be case of Mr. Strad with his many efforts of all sizes.

I love to tinker with geometry ideas, geometry was one of my strongest subject at University math studies so my curiosity is always making me want to know more even if it is completely useless in practice.

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I think it's a matter of taste - either you've got it or you don't and very, very few have it to the degree that it will be noticed.  The rest of the aspiring artists copy someone who does but lose the way when they go off on their own.  Appealing to contemporary taste seems to be the essential problem faced by most artists - and simultaneously capturing the profound, which gives art legs, is even more difficult.  And achieving widespread appeal with profound expression maybe once in a century.  There needs to be an epiphany of current taste, exposure, and artistic content.  Then again, for some things the time has passed.  I know I'm expressing a rather romantic (and prosaic) view of the dilemma but I think it captures it fairly well.

I also think that the violin is/isn't the female form at the same time.  Certainly an argument can be made that it strongly suggests an organic form, and the wider lower bout is suggestive of the female body structure.  There's also a suggestion of gravity acting on an organic body causing unsupported tissue to flow downwards, and this also gives the violin the emotional feel of a living thing.  But living things are in some trouble, and many are becoming extinct.  Electronics, machines, and weapons of war are the thing in the military-corporate age.  Power trumps subtlety in most encounters.

 

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10 minutes ago, David Beard said:

But....

A static system such as this one produces one shape in one size.

That does not correspond to Old Cremona's actual production.

This can not represent their general method of working.

I concur with this sentiment. 

So many systems have been though of that seem to be the answer. But to me, there is none, or we'll never find it. 

As Chris said, we're just reverse engineering something with systems that approximate the shape were after. 

I think that possibly the shapes were made with practicality in mind, and simply to suit the eye. 

The amount of fudging that has to be done to get these proposed systems to actually fit what were after tells me that we're just spinning our wheels, generally. 

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On 5/12/2024 at 12:54 PM, Don Noon said:

The violin shape has often been compared to the female form, and perhaps it was derived from what was considered the most ideal female form of that time.  If it was derived in America today, the upper bouts would be larger.

According to one of my daughters who has a lot of professional experience in the fashion trade, boobal enhancement has gone rather out of style, somewhat replaced by enormous artificially-enhanced butts and size-augmented lips.
Tomorrow, who knows? :lol:

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5 minutes ago, Nick Allen said:

I concur with this sentiment. 

So many systems have been though of that seem to be the answer. But to me, there is none, or we'll never find it. 

As Chris said, we're just reverse engineering something with systems that approximate the shape were after. 

I think that possibly the shapes were made with practicality in mind, and simply to suit the eye. 

The amount of fudging that has to be done to get these proposed systems to actually fit what were after tells me that we're just spinning our wheels, generally. 

I don't agree that we won't find it.  My work has gone a long way toward exactly that.

But is not and can not be any static system, no matter how pretty.  It might s

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1 hour ago, Nick Allen said:

The amount of fudging that has to be done to get these proposed systems to actually fit what were after tells me that we're just spinning our wheels, generally. 

That has been my general observation, too.

Which is not to totally condemn those who spin their wheels, since I've done my share of that.

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