What makes a violin or bow genuine

October 1, 2016 at 06:07 AM · This thread got me thinking.

Who here plays with a L Bausch Leipzig?

What constitutes a genuine violin or bow? If a violin was 100% made by apprentices and not the master, is it still the real deal? If a violin is a genuine Strad, how much of it was made by the master himself vs an apprentice?

Replies (38)

October 1, 2016 at 06:21 AM · Even a certificate from a famous dealer/ expert is no guarantee. The world is full of rip off merchants.

Expensive old instruments and bows are way over valued. Best to steer clear in my opinion.

October 1, 2016 at 06:59 AM · That's a great story, Stuart! Thanks for telling it.

October 1, 2016 at 07:16 AM · Can of worms ? Who ever stands over a named maker to be sure he/she really made the violin/bow entirely on their own ? J.B. Vuillaume, for example, employed a host of skilled workers and who did what is impossible to ascertain now. No W.E. Hill and Sons bow was ever made by either W.E. Hill or his sons - but it's sometimes possible to see who made a particular stick if the maker's mark under the hair is still visible. I once entered the shop of a well-known Cremona maker. The proprietor whose name his fiddles bear stood there in a suit whilst a youngster sat slaving away at the bench. A great many "names" are blanket trade-marks covering not only the work of the actual "name" but work contracted out as well. So the label rarely guarantees who actually "made it". Makers who toil away entirely without assistance are rare. Luca Primon might be one.

"Authenticity" is what a circle of "experts" decree, years after the event. "Provenance" can as hard to establish in the violin world as it often is in the art business. There's a fascinating TV series here in the UK, "Fake or Fortune" in which the experts scratch their heads and form opinions as to authenticity which are then over-ruled by the society protecting the name and reputation of the artist in question.

A Bausch might be an early 19th century original or a trade bow bearing that stamp, from much later. There are lots of trade bows stamped Dodd or Tubbs and even the famous Kittel bows were probably not made by him.

"The world is full of rip off merchants." wrote Peter Charles. I pity the young professionals who, when emerging from College, need to engage with this world of smoke and mirrors and BS. It takes years to get one's head straight !

(EDIT) I have had excellent service from living makers of both violins and bows; a few purchases in my early days of "old stuff" from dealerships were questionable and sometimes regretted.

October 1, 2016 at 07:17 AM · Made in the workshop under the direction of the Master is considered authentic, made by the apprentice after the Master died is not considered authentic, but may still well be respected, many apprentices continued using the Masters label after he died or could no longer work.

October 1, 2016 at 07:23 AM · With a lot of antique German "makers" the label indicates an instrument not made on the premises but likely ordered by, possibly finished in shop but definitely marketed by the "maker".

October 1, 2016 at 07:27 AM · With Strad I've heard theorized that while Strad may have only done 25% of the work, his sons or apprentices, if any, doing the rest, he handled the most difficult parts, like carving the scroll, etc. In his old age, increasingly more work done by his sons, to the point where top experts at least claim to be able to recognize the work of this son or that, differing from the work of the Master.

October 1, 2016 at 09:03 AM · Even his mistress may have a hand in it too ... but I'm not pointing a finger ... or suggesting the scroll or f holes.

October 1, 2016 at 09:09 AM · You're thinking of Mrs Guanerius, Stradivari married a wealthy woman, who presumably didn't have to work, in fact according to some that was the secret of his success, he didn't have to depend on his work for income.

October 1, 2016 at 10:22 AM · I think Mrs Amati did the washing up.

October 1, 2016 at 10:42 AM · Yeah, I too think that if someone made a violin under the control of a master, then that violin is pretty much the same as if the master made it. All the processes will be dictated by the master, and all the little details and carvings will be checked by the master, so in the end, the only thing that is different is the hands that supported the tools.

October 1, 2016 at 11:10 AM · At what stage did an Amati become an early Strad, I wonder? S would have learnt his craft under the watchful eye of A.

October 1, 2016 at 12:38 PM · Well in the case of Ming Jiang Zhu, we at least have a remote chance of knowing the role of the master, and a violin made by the master himself is worth many times more than one made by one of his apprentices. Maybe years later when no one can tell the difference, they will all be valuable. Or if Lyndon has his way, they will all be considered useless junk (sorry Lyndon, couldn't resist).

If I were a wealthy individual living in Strad's time, I would commission a violin from the master himself and make sure he does all the work. But we all know that a violin made by the master is not worth any more than one made by his apprentice.

This thread is leaving me with more questions than answers.

October 1, 2016 at 02:01 PM · Trevor - I do think Amati's (even by the Amati Brothers) were possibly early Strad's. Some of these early Amati's had a big sound (of course now modernised with new necks and bigger base bars).

But I'm no expert, so let an expert comment further. (No, not you LT!)

October 1, 2016 at 02:33 PM · It depends whether you are buying or selling.

And where you are buying or selling. :)

October 1, 2016 at 02:54 PM · So if I am buying, it must be a fake, but if I'm selling, then it is 100% certifiably genuine -- just like the stock market, buy low sell high. :-)

Just joking of course, but it also makes me cringe to think about it. Whom should you trust?

October 1, 2016 at 03:02 PM · Lyndon wrote:

Made in the workshop under the direction of the Master is considered authentic, ...

On the surface, this sounds reasonable, but the devil is in the details. How many apprentices can a master hire and still produce a "genuine" product? I don't think many would argue that having 1 or 2 good apprentices with the supervision of the master is a "genuine" product. But what about 5 apprentices, or how about 50 or 500? At what point does the product become a mass produced knock off vs the genuine artifact? I don't suppose there is a standards committee that presides over that.

October 1, 2016 at 03:08 PM · According to bow expert Yung Chin, my L Bausch bow was made in the Knopf workshop for L Bausch. I was told that the bow is a genuine L Bausch Leipzig bow. Does anyone know where the Knopf workshop was in relation to the workshop of L Bausch? Was it next door or days away by carriage? How many people worked in the Knopf workshop? Did L Bausch preside over the workshop; did he make regular visits? All of these questions makes me wonder about the authenticity (or not) of my L Bausch bow. It also makes me question the authenticity of ALL violins and bows and every hand made collectable known to man.

October 1, 2016 at 03:53 PM · Attributions are generally "by X", "workshop of X" or "school of X", I believe. There can be refinements, like "made by X for Y", which is especially common for bows -- I have a bow that is "made by Claude Thomassin for J&A Beare" and is stamped J&A Beare.

In modern days, apprentice-made and master-made instruments are still pretty distinctive. Take Scott Cao as a good example. Violins made in his Campbell, California workshop by his apprentices are readily distinguishable from his own instruments, even if he is supervising those apprentices. Since each violin-maker tends to have his own personal carving style and whatnot, an authenticator would still be able to distinguish the master's work from the apprentice's work.

I believe composite work (made by multiple hands) tends to be identified as such where possible.

October 2, 2016 at 12:29 AM · Unfortunately, the issue of who did it extends to repairs as well; taking your instrument to a shop with a famous name is no guarantee that the work won't be farmed out to a home craftsman 150 miles away...it is the practice these days.

October 2, 2016 at 07:07 AM · The answer is to not let any old Tom, Dick or Harry work on your instrument, no matter how famous they "might" be. A famous player was verbally very rude about the set-up work done on a famous fiddle, as it sounded awful, and this was in a well known violin shop in London, many years ago. (Which is now defunct).

October 2, 2016 at 09:02 AM · "According to bow expert Yung Chin, my L Bausch bow was made in the Knopf workshop for L Bausch."

Google, he say "Heinrich Carl Knopf (1839–1875) ..... Spent his journeyman's years in Leipzig working for Ludwig Bausch." Has Yung Chin got it back to front ?

H.C. K. was member of a dynasty of bowmakers, his father was one. Who did what, with what, and to whom must be something of a mystery ! If this Knopf and L. Bausch made the much-sought-after and valuable Kittel bows then whatever Smiley has is probably fantastic.

Only one question. Doubts as to the dates of old fiddles are often laid to rest by dendrochronology. Has this ever been applied to bows ? Such geekery might establish whether Smiley's bow is from the golden period or later.

October 2, 2016 at 09:05 AM · In "the violin a social history of the world's most versatile instrument" David Schoenbaum devotes a lot of ink to this topic. He also describes a "blind test" of violins that ascertained that provenance had little to do with sound and tone quality. The question really boils down to what is your intention with owing a violin? Playing or investing? Playing, while subjective, is all about sound and tone qualities. Investing puts you in a whole different market. Even the "Experts" get fooled and it is a liars game. My personal violin is anything but great (A family "Mittenwald - Strad from the late 1800's) it has a good sound and tone and we like each other. Market value is negligible but who cares - only my insurance agent.

October 2, 2016 at 12:30 PM · Valid point George, but I would argue that no matter the price range, both performance and value are important. Whether you spend $500 on a violin or $500,000, you want to have something that performs well, but you also want to know that you paid a fair price and might be able to recoup much of that investment down the road.

October 2, 2016 at 02:02 PM · Hi David,

According to the certificate provided by Yung Chin, the bow was made around 1880-1890. If that is true, and if your dates are correct, then the bow was made after HC Knopf passed away. Putting all the pieces together, we might conclude that not only was the bow not made by L Bausch, it wasn't made by Knopf either. In fact, it was actually made by an apprentice of Knopf.

So here's the question. I have a bow stamped L Bausch Leipzig. If our facts are correct, the bow was made in the Knopf workshop by an apprentice of Knopf for L Bausch. Does that make the bow a genuine L Bausch bow?

October 2, 2016 at 02:04 PM · All this jibber jabber aside, my L Bausch is quite an amazing stick. Whether it is "genuine" or not, I don't plan on parting with it any time soon.

October 2, 2016 at 03:18 PM · Heinrich Knopf had a son and grandson that made bows, there were quite a few other Knopfs that made bows as well.

October 2, 2016 at 03:20 PM · Peter, Stradivari worked in Nicola Amati's workshop allegedly, the Amati brothers were a generation older, so Strad could not have worked for them.

October 2, 2016 at 04:41 PM · You miss my point!

October 2, 2016 at 04:42 PM · Sound-wise the Amati Brothers violins were a Strad like big sound.

October 2, 2016 at 04:49 PM · Going back to what is genuine, I think most of us have been ripped off at some point in our lives. Instruments and bows are the most likely sources of a potential rip off. Even people with a lot of knowledge and expertise have fallen prey to the sharks that prey on us all.

Internet and computer fraud are what gets most people, but musicians and anyone dabbling in antiques are also fair game.

October 2, 2016 at 05:26 PM · I don't think the industry uses the term "genuine", except in eBay ads. :-)

I would think that in everyday parlance, Smiley, your bow is a Knopf workshop bow; that's the identification of the maker. The "made for" designation is a clarification of the attribution, not the attribution itself.

October 2, 2016 at 07:52 PM · If we look at modern luthiers and archetiers, we see that some masters make their own instruments and bows to the end(if I'm not mistaken, Mr Burgess for example). Some masters start expanding and sell workshop instruments(Ming Jhang Zhu) and bows, and put their name on it at the end.

It's however universally true that to the point prior to fame(and thus high demand), the master maker makes his/her instrument and bow.

I propose that earlier the instrument,or bow was made by the "maker" the more likely genuine it is. We could do some statistical study. i.e. average age of luthiers at fame, probability of them expanding workshop in certain amount of years and etc. We can then simulate it using age of the stamping(a chemist can verify the age of the stamp).

Oh antiques, so mysterious. I prefer buying living, breathing artists' work. Not that I would oppose the antiques(well may be a little bit for sanitary reasons). I wonder, even for experts, how could one confidently certify age and workmanship of something? I mean, nowdays, I can tell the distinction of "German" style and "French" style instruments, but it doesn't rule out that the style replicated elsewhere(such as China).

October 3, 2016 at 06:29 AM · Hi, Smiley,

Don't worry too much as to whether H.C.K had passed away by the time your bow was made. "...the Knopf family—14 bow makers, spread over five generations... " according to an article that appeared in Strings Magazine. So the bow stick might still be a Knopf one. And the L.Bausch company seems to have carried on after the death of the original L. Bausch. So your bow is as "genuine" as it could be - the stamp on it will not be a wrong one. And unmounted sticks sometimes lurk in a workshop after the maker has passed on - finished by A.N.Other later. That applies to a lot of Hill bows. H.C.K might well have made the stick.

This possiblity is why I asked about dendrochronology.

October 3, 2016 at 07:04 AM · There's no dendrochronology for bow wood, or for the maple on violin backs either.

October 3, 2016 at 11:43 AM · David,

I think you hit the nail on the head. My bow is as "genuine" as it can be. This thread raises all sorts of questions regarding authenticity, but in the end, unless you watch the violin or bow being made from beginning to end, it is impossible to say exactly how it came about. Strads are revered for their workmanship and tone regardless if they were made by the master or an apprentice.

October 3, 2016 at 02:20 PM · Is there a price delta between bows made by L Bausch himself, and the bows made for his shop? I would guess so.

October 3, 2016 at 04:19 PM · If the violin or bow has a certificate from Jacques Francais, or Dietmar Machold, it's legit. Oh wait...

October 3, 2016 at 05:14 PM · I can't wait that long ...

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