Old Instrument Photos

The magazines and coffee table books are full of studio photos of classic (expensive) violins. I thought you might like to browse with me among these affordable ones by unsung artists, such as you and I might find in our "collections." They will serve to illustrate the variety of violins to those who may think "they all look alike." This is arranged for a pleasant pictorial browse.

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These are mostly impromptu snapshots taken in our rose garden and apple orchard , but the form of the violin is universal enough to survive, thrive, even in that setting. Most were taken in sunlight with my old SLR. More to come - it's interesting, but I don't have much time for this. . . (Beginning with the Friedrich I am using my new digital camera. Newer photos will be placed at the top of this page.)

Bass Viol (Viola da Gamba)
Viola da GambaEvery violin shop should have at least a token viol on display, and this is ours, apparently an older English one by Thomas M. Anselmi - at least he signed it several places inside. It had been terribly refinished and fitted with Caspari cello pegs, so we bushed it and varnished it with my brown walnut oil & and pine resin varnish, color augmented with Gubbio red pigment.

Ornate Cello
Ornate Modern CelloOrnate Modern CelloOne of the more visually spectacular instruments to find its way into my shop for repair, it was made ca. 1915 in Cleveland by Bernhardt Kimpel, a German born cabinetmaker and amateur violin maker d.1946. According to Wenberg this cello is made of some 600 pieces of 10 species of wood. Apparently maple and walnut predominate. While the ribs are veneered with marquetry, the front, back, and neck are made of solid joined wood strips.

NyckelharpaA rare sight in a violin shop, this modern example of the Swedish Nyckelharpa ("keyed harp") was smashed in transit from Sweden, and we put it back together for a friend - not our usual line of work. Earlier forms existed in the 9th C. and ones similar to this from the 16th. Reminiscent of the hurdy-gurdy, but played (much more expressively) with a bow instead of a wheel. Bowed strings A C G C, 12 sympathetic resonance strings, and 37 keys to stop the bowed strings. A strong, silvery sound.

David Tecchler violin Rome 1704
Tecchler Tecchler Tecchler Label seems original, excellent scroll. Front half-edged. Expert restoration work stamped by (Henry) Schetelig, Brooklyn, NY, born in Saxony, Germany (Markneukirchen), came to America 1886, independent shop 1897.

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Tecchler Tecchler Tecchler

Old Brescian violin?? ca. 1575?
Brescian? Brescian?FullerBrescianUnlabeled. Plain workmanship, soundholes without wings, long neck, opaque wood, thin ribs, scribed purfling, archaic scroll and neck. Some similarities to Zanetto.

M. S. Fuller, 1907
Friedrich FullerFuller Labeled M. S. Fuller 1907/R.F.D No. 6/Salem Ore No. 19, primitive charming local violin, broad volute on scroll, but very good shaded varnish. A grand pen and ink polychrome painted eagle with American flag on the lower back initialed C.F. (perhaps the maker's wife or daughter?), beautiful burl ribs, not loud, but hard to beat as a patriotic decoration! Fine folk art.

Beautiful Martin Mandolin, 1899
Martin MartinMartinMartinMartin

Violins are elegant, graceful, and economical in design (if a bit monotonous). But lutes and mandolins may have, without embarrassment, exquisite decorative beauty. The mandolin is related to the violin, at least in it's identical tuning, if not in it's fretting and double stringing, and I couldn't resist showing these photos taken on our back porch tablecloth. The plate on the back of the head and the channeling in the rosewood ribs are wonderful. Take a look, even though (maybe because) these are large pictures. This made such a nice change from fiddles that I put up some other pictures of "plucked" instruments that decorate the walls of my shop, including a rare fretted violin (or bowed zither) etc. You will find these at the bottom of this page.

Jakob Stainer (old copy)
Stainer StainerStainerStainerStainer Like the best Cremonese makers, Austria's Stainer is much maligned by the ubiquitous, awful "copies," really caricatures, in which "imitation is (not) the sincerest form of flattery." Here, however, we have a particularly nice one. The birdseye figure is not quite as tight, but the model, arching, and edges are right, even the handwritten label is plausible - Jacobus Stainer in Absam, prope Oenipontum 1652. One piece lower rib with inlet saddle and inverted "V"center marking notch on the lower edge. Providentially, this violin seems to sing in the best Staineresque timbre, as set primarily by the arching, but full and free, making it understandable that Stainers were, in their day, preferred to Stradivaris.

John Friedrich 1858-1943
Friedrich FriedrichThis eye-catching violin reminded me of the "American Beauty" article by David Bromberg in the November 2000 Strad. Born in Germany, John and William Friedrich long operated the firm of John Friedrich & Bro. in New York. This antiqued "Guarneri" model is dated 1931. It is unclear to what extent it was imported or made in NY, but clearly in the style of his "American violins."

J. B. Squier, "The American Stradivarius"
Squier ScrollSquier BackSquier Front Squier Back Squier Front Labeled 1890/Jerome Bonaparte Squier Maker/No. 192 Boston (elegant label on a black background), made by one of the great American makers and father of Victor Carroll Squier, of the V.C. Squier Co., manufacturer of strings and instruments in Battle Creek, Michigan. Reddish varnish (a glaze over gold), a fine violin. Handwritten inside on the upper block : " This violin is made of very old Italian wood. June 1890 J.B. Squier." Ex Estelle LaMont, b. Michigan, who played it in the San Diego Symphony. See Two Generations of American Violin Makers, Journal of the VSA, Vol. V, No. 1.

Johann Ulrich Eberle
Eberle Scroll Eberle Side Eberle Front Classical Scroll Labeled Joannes Udaldricus Eberle/fecit Prag' 1753 (original parchment label), also with repair label Opravil 19 - Reparavit/Bohuslav Lantner/Praha Prague, original scroll invisibly grafted onto new pegbox, which is grafted onto a new neck. This prolific prime exponent of the German school also made many wonderful violas d'amore. Ex Bernard Kornblum collection; it has a symbolic interest for me; my mother's name is Eberle. Photographs of this authentic instrument occupy a page, plate 38, in Jalovec's The Violin Makers of Bohemia. See also the photos on pages 47 and 70 of Art & Method of the Violin Maker by Henry A. Strobel.

Lion's Head Example
Lion's Head A fine bit of carving at the head of this otherwise ordinary late 19th C. violin. Probably composite "homework," by different specialists, as the head carver most frequently was. In this case the other cobblers of the fiddle were of a lower level of artistry. Labor was cheap in those days compared to the price of materials as ebony, leading to the manufacture of composite fingerboards of pear wood veneer over spruce, being at least fortuitously lightweight.

Modern English Violin
Hoyer Scroll Labeled fecit 1954/Dei gratia (with monogram RB in circle), made by Richard Blois, his personal violin (he died several years ago on the Oregon coast), with his leather case, etc., beautiful, golden (gamboge) varnish, one piece back, mint, probably made in London. In Wenberg: "Blois, Richard C. T.:, Monterey, CA. C. 1920- Born in London, England. [Note: I was recently informed that he was actually born in NYC, where his concert pianist mother was on tour. He was taken back to England at a very young age and grew up there.] Studied to be a concert pianist at the Royal Academy of Music . . . Later moved to Pasadena in the late 1950's, and studied violin repair under Herbert Gray c. 1965. . . Also a composer and artistic painter. Label no. 29."

Hungarian Violin
Hungarian Back HungarianLabeled Javitotta/Brueckner Nandor/hangzer-keszitof/Budapest/Raktdr : Magyar-utcza 4, sz., a pretty, well made, antique looking Stradivari model, grafted. Actually a very nice copy. Ferdinand Brueckner was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1848, and studied under Adolf Moennig.

Classic German Violin
German Back German Scroll German Front Unlabeled, another very interesting, very old violin, idiosyncratic ears on the scroll but this violin exudes quality, witnessed by careful restoration work. Pegbox grafted, bushed, cheeked, nice rich brown transparent varnish. Maybe Viennese, a violin to cherish. Purity of tone, easy playing, remarkably 5.5 mm of original wood in the front center although light elsewhere.

Nice Violin with Worn Varnish
Back Front Scroll An old, lightweight, good sounding violin bearing a patently misplaced J.U. Eberle parchment label, which hardly warrants a Tommaso E. attribution! But yes I might guess Italian, and certainly a nice scroll.

18th C. Hopf Violin
HopfStamped * HOPF * inside, HOPF (with individual letter stamps) on back under button, handwritten inside "John G. Henrici/Violin Repairer/Resident No. 40 10th Street, Portland, Oregon, Dec. 6 1888," a better than usual Hopf model, handsome one piece back, ca. 1780?, possibly by David August I or II, said to have used such "cartwheels" (asterisks) either side of the name, neck was broken and repaired.

18th C. German Violin
Hoyer Scroll Hoyer Back Hoyer Front A favorite example of a violin of this school, it strikes one as very different, but strongly beautiful in its own style sounding robustly if Staineresque. A long narrow pegbox over a "chesty" body with 50 mm between the upper f's! The original label of an honest if unsung maker of Klingenthal (or thereabouts) named Johann Friedrich Hoyer (ca. 1750) is characteristically glued onto the inner right middle rib.

Beautiful Classic Violin
Classical BackClassical Back Classical Front Classical ScrollUnidentified classical Italianate violin, Venetian red over gold, exhibiting beautiful wear and craquele. The quintessential "interesting violin," that speaks to us, if only we knew what. Value hangs on the hinge of attribution, a pitfall to be resisted, even by the "expert." Such fiddles in times past, and not so past, have been sanguinely and retroactively labelled. But wishing does not make it so. Still a nice violin, whoever made it.

"Hoosier" Violin
Kelley Violin Kelley Violin No, not an old violin, this sweet and easy playing country fiddle is a gift made of silver maple for me by my friend Jerry Kelley back home in Indiana. (He's playing a Strobel violin in this picture.)

Very Old Ornate Violin
Ornate Back Detail Ornate Violin Scroll Violin This very old violin is also very lightly built, this delicateness being echoed in the ultra-fine (very narrow) "vermicelli" purfling. A very dark tone, yet pure, not tubby. What a nicely turned ear on the scroll. "Vive la difference."

"Ancient" Violin
Ancient Violin Ancient Violin Ancient Violin This very old violin is perhaps Brescian. Fully double purfled and with a fine head, it is large (363 mm) with a large sound. The size is reminiscent of those times when makers such as Andrea Amati made both large and little fiddles, as opposed to those of the latter 19th century, who made overlong violins by adding the width of the tracing pencil too many times. Fully double purfled, and with interesting stuff on the back, it has a partially legible Tieffenbrucker (Gaspard Duiffoprugcar) label, suspect, as they are.

Small Old Viola
Small Old Viola Small Old Viola Small Old Viola Small Old Viola Small Old Viola Small Old Viola The maker's label is hand-written and appears to be original, although the brownish ink is faded and difficult to read in period script: "Johannes Gullich, Lauten und Instrumentenmacher in Mannheim, Maerz 1799" I.e. John Gullich (or Guellich), Lute and Instrument maker in Mannheim (Germany), March 1799 - a nice round 200 years old. He died 27 March, 1837, the son of and successor to Mathias G., 1714-1803. There is also a repairer's label, considered authentic: "Reparirt von Heinrich Eckard in Mannheim." Eckard lived from 1811 until after 1878. The lower rib is in one piece. The grain of the front is extremely fine, the wood otherwise very plain. It is very light weight and good sounding. This is a small viola, 15 5/8 inches or 397 mm, the same length incidentally as the small violas I made after Louis Kievman's Gasparo da Salo, but the neck and string length are those of a larger viola, 150 mm and 375 mm, at least with the bridge between the f-notches, maintaining the string tension. The corpus is ample, with a (more or less uniform) rib height of 39 mm, an upper width of 195 mm, middle of 135, and lower of 233, all over the back arching. Yes, indeed the neck is grafted; you can just see the curved line under the peg.

Fine Scottish Violin by Wm. Arbuckle, Glasgow, 1895.
Scottish Violin The arching and edgework are wonderfully crisp and personal. This is in my private collection as a happy recollection of my three years in Ayrshire, Scotland as an Air Force Officer.

Bowed Zither (or Fretted Violin), Concert Zither, and Italian Style Mandolin
Italian Mandolin Concert ZitherBowed Zither The Bowed Zither is tuned like a violin, played with a violin bow, and has an arched fingerboard. A very rare 19th century folk instrument from southern Germany, it was played flat on the table in front of the "performer." Three sharp points on the back kept it from sliding. This one is labeled Herman Muller, San Francisco, probably the seller rather than the maker.

The Concert Zither is played with picks on a portable table, the chords (Begleit) coming from the color coded groups of strings beyond the fretboard. Still popular in Germany and Austria, it is familiar, if at all, to Americans from occasional restaurant entertainment or from the theme of the postwar Graham Greene movie The Third Man. This one is labeled P. Ed. Loenes, Zithern Fabrik Lager, Trier, Germany.

Potato Beetle The "Italian" Mandolin is labeled L. Ricca.. 4208, Manufacturer, New York NY. Different from the flat Bluegrass style, this classical version, when played by hillbillies was termed a "tater bug" (potato beetle) from its resemblance to the alternate birdseye maple and rosewood ribs pattern.


Copyright 1999-2010 Henry Strobel