From B Young
Posted June 26, 2006 at 05:05 AM
Help- I am looking at a Collin-Mezin violin made in 1909 and trying to determine if it is genuine. The color of the varnish of the violin bothers me as it is a dark deep brown and I know that these violins are usually yellow-brown or golden yellow. Also, the label is not the label of his later violins... Grand Prix Exposition - should it say that if it is made in 1909 instead of the former label saying Paris, Poisonniere #29? Also, how can I tell if the signature is genuine? There is a flowery signature in ink, I think, on the wood above the label visible through the f-holes. I don't even know if the violin is made by the son or the father (who apparently retired in 1906). The violin sounds nice and I am interested in purchasing it for my son but it is very pricey (close to $10k) and the seller will not let it out of his possession for a second opinion. The seller believes it is genuine and made by the father Collin-Mezin, not the son. I am not entirely convinced. Thanks.
All of the instruments from the shop bear a signature. Some of the better, earlier (19th century) instruments also bear a second signature and date on the interior of the back at the upper treble shoulder. Later, the "signature" was inserted on a paper label. I don't seem to recall seeing a label in an instrument much after 1900 that doesn't mention the medals received in Paris, but I can't say there aren't some out there.
I really would suggest caution when considering the purchase of a violin that the owner won't let out for trial or for appraisal. Understanding that I haven't seen the intrument in question (so you must take this with a grain of salt), the price (if in US $s) you mentioned isn't any less than a I'd expect to find one from that period in a retail shop for... and may even be a bit higher, depending on the fiddle.
You might try working with a reputable dealer... part of what you're paying for in a good shop is service, experience, reliable valuation, and reliable historical data.
I also heard that there must be a register somewhere, a book in which the Collin Mézin family wrote a description of their instruments. I have also been told that each instrument has been numbered (the number is on the paper label inside) so in the past they could check the number to see in the book to check if it was a "real" C-M.
C-M violins were produced into the 1950s. I'm not sure when the paper signature label became commonplace, but I've seen it in the later instruments.
I'd be concerned with anyone who would authenticate any instrument based solely on a label and signature. That's really not how authentication is done... Labels can be changed and signatures can be forged. If the violin is authentic, the maker's signature and unmoved label support the attribution, but relying on the reverse is not a valid method.
There's no way I can tell if the one you have is "authentic" without seeing it, of course... but honestly, I don't pay a great deal of attention to the instruments made much after the mid 1890s... while some are very servicable instruments, they're a little too commercial for me. I did handle close to 50 of the 1870-1900 C-M instruments when I ran the Fine Instrument Division of Shar... and I've bought and resold a few from the 1870s since leaving... but these really early ones don't come up often.
I'm sure that the business had some sort of log... but I've never seen a copy... I'm used to seeing numbers in pencil written on the back (on the older instruments; as was the fashion for a number of 19th century French makers), BTW.
Is this Guarneri model C-M that Gregg has a new addition? The 1890 C-M Gregg showed me a few months ago was a Strad model, as I recall. Also, according to the profile, B. Young is in Canada... Shipping there from the US can be a little complicated (or expensive due to the GST tax). Most of my Canadian clients drive down to Ann Arbor for instruments or bows in this price range. For more expensive instruments, a CARNET (a trade goods "passport") can be arranged and the instrument hand carried to the player.
If you REALLY like the sound and look of the violin for the price, go ahead and buy it without worrying too much about authentication.
The trick of course is knowing that you're not overpaying for a specific name, which is the whole point of this thread. So follow Mr. Holmes' advice exactly - that's as good as it gets.
I've played so many violins in the $10,000 and under range that have suited me better than instruments double or even quadruple that price.
As usual, Jeffrey offered some very valuable advice. I don't see any need to rush for this violin. For your price range, there are many violins available, so take your time.
I am pretty sure it was a Guarneri model but could be mistaken. I don't know anything about the shipping costs involved. Thanks for the heads up.
Ch. J.B. COLLIN-MEZIN
Luthier a Paris
Rue du Faub & Poissonniere No. 10 (not sure if that is really a &)
The bottom line here is: you cannot go by how the varnish looks, how the label looks, or whether it looks like someone else's. Every single aspect of a violin can and has been faked. Unless you are a recognized authority, you MUST have a certificate proving authenticiy in you hand when you write the check. The fact that he's unwilling to let anyone else look at it is ridiculous.
Whether any of the violins were actually made or at least finished in Paris (rather than Mirecourt) is a moot point - I really don't know. But it seems that Collin-Mezin senior must at least have had a showroom there and possibly lived above the shop.
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