Good sounding contemporary Violin with decorations (inlaid/painted or others)

July 31, 2017, 9:44 AM · Hi Guys,

Would like to ask you guys what would be a good luthier that makes violin that sounds great as an instrument but also have some distinctive aesthetic features.

As mentioned in another thread I was looking at Stefano Trabucchi but unfortunately the violin I wanted was sold. The next thing that comes to mind is the Villa brothers. From reading here It seems most people agree that Villas make quality violins and I see their inlaid ones looks great. Need to be displayed and also played.

Besides the Villa brothers, who else would you recommend? Price range 15-30K.
Slight preference towards Italian since I own a German violin.

Also, any difference in quality between Marcelo and Vittorio Villa? Thanks!

Replies (16)

Edited: August 1, 2017, 5:45 AM · To see my ornamented Vittorio Villa, see my blogs, "A Pilgrimage to Cremona" and "A Tale of Two Fiddles" buried somewhere here or on my website,

Both Vittorio and Marcello are excellent and similar but Vittorio speaks English and I was originally introduced to him. He's very busy and often contacted by people who aren't really serious - but if you are, let me know and I can make the introductions. It's better than a cold call. BTW, the Villa ornamentations are inlaid, not painted on - very labor-intensive.

I also have a uniquely decorated violin by Ed Maday of Long Island, NY. It has - per my request - a lion's head and a gold leaf inscription on the ribs.

July 31, 2017, 10:16 AM · It really depends on what your aesthetic is... If I was to commission a unique work-of-art fiddle, I'd probably consider the American maker Guy Rabut. That is, if you are looking for a kind of "modern" aesthetic!
July 31, 2017, 11:32 AM · Wow! What an amazing piece of design. The Black Violin is certainly is a departure from the normal aesthetic. Very striking and no doubt will cost more than a traditional model. As a long term investment I doubt it will hold its value, however. The Chanot trapezoid violins of the 19th century are not worth much now. Violinists have always been very conservative but maybe that will change...

Cheers Carlo

Edited: July 31, 2017, 11:50 AM · If you are looking for a tool for making music, sound and playability should be your main concerns.
If you add the decoration you include another element to the recipe, making it much more complex.
Violins can be seen as tools for making music or art objects. It is hard to find both things in an instrument.
Just my two cents.
July 31, 2017, 11:53 AM · It is interesting that in the time the violin was invented, all other musical instruments (and objects in general) where highly decorated, but the violin was created as a rather "clean" looking instrument, it is beauty comes from its forms, and not for decorations applied to it.
July 31, 2017, 11:53 AM · My Prius got twice as fast when I added a cosmetic "racing stripe". ;-)

Re Laurie's recommendation, Guy Rabut has done some really cool designs and artwork.

Edited: July 31, 2017, 12:01 PM · There are a few very beautiful violins in this price range, I dont know if there are some with ornaments.
The black violin looks special, I actually like the looks.
There is also the blue violin.
As I said before I really think of Rittwagen (German) as an excellent maker with good prices (if I remember correctly 21 000€ for a standard violin).
A Burgess might take a while to wait for. Propably worth it though.
July 31, 2017, 2:35 PM · David Burgess, I tried a "racing stripe" in my 2001 Corolla, but it got no better.
July 31, 2017, 4:17 PM · I would try a variety of affordable violins, keeping your needs in mind, and pick your fave. Maybe you could find a great violin that's not necessarily visually appealing for playing, and another cheap violin that looks great but doesn't have to sound so great/playability is not considered for display.
July 31, 2017, 11:11 PM · You might like violins by Anne Cole... I don't own one, but a lot of people seem to think highly of her work.
Edited: August 1, 2017, 5:55 AM · There seems to be some implicit criticism here for someone wanting to make or own an ornamented violin. Everyone has their own taste and a fine sounding and well-functioning violin that's also ornamented is certainly within reach. These aspects needn't be mutually exclusive at all. If someone doesn't like it, that's also fine. But if it's basically wrong to 'gild the lily', tell that to Amati, Stradivari, and Peter Guarneri. Stradivari in particular, made some spectacular decorated instruments. Vittorio Villa also told me that the best SOUNDING violin he ever tried was the highly ornamented and famous "Hellier" Strad.
August 1, 2017, 6:02 AM · Of course there is nothing wrong in buying an ornamented violin, it is just a very small group of good current makers which makes it hard to shop for, especially if there is no way to try out any of the instruments (as in this case).
It might also be a possibility to ask a maker with reputation for good "normal" violins if he could make something like that.
August 1, 2017, 6:30 AM · Lukas Wronski in NYC makes interesting decorative violins that sound nice. Not sure what his price range is though.
August 1, 2017, 6:47 AM · Actually for me, Rabut is too futuristic. Of course taste is subjective. I'm looking at either a trabucchi painted or a villa violin that Raphael has. I'm drooling over the inlaid violin!
August 1, 2017, 6:50 AM · A few things...

Probably understood, but not specifically mentioned: ornamentation takes a lot of time to do, so unless a good maker is starving, it will likely cost a significant extra amount.

Even if it didn't cost more, the conservatism of most violinists (my impression) would not attract them to ornamented instruments, so there isn't much of a market or supply out there.

Most of the supply of ornamented instruments is Chinese... so if I saw someone playing an ornamented instrument, that's the first thing I'd think of: Chinese.

If you want an ornamented instrument from a reputable maker (and I suspect most reputable makers won't want to do it anyway), you'll likely have to commit to buy that particular instrument, perhaps paying upfront.

Edited: August 1, 2017, 6:59 AM · Spanish (Madrid) violin maker, Fernando Solar Gonzalez, was the custodian of the decorated quartet Stradivarius had made for the Spanish royal family. When I visited his Madrid shop in 1990 he showed me the copies of these decorated instruments he had made - and I played on both violins. He was very excited at the time because one of his (other) instruments had just sold for $10,000 (according to him). The auction prices I find on line now are quite a bit lower. So his output might be a source of fine, decorated violins - if he actually decorated more than that Strad set. Solar is no longer living, and his children took over the shop (according to some articles in STRAD magazine) - I don't know if they are still in business - but might be worth a try.

I had made a special point of visiting him on that trip to Spain, because in 1974 I had purchased his violin #157, made in 1971 (by mail, from England) - and meeting him satisfied part of my quest to meet all of "my" living violin makers. My Solar violin has a rich and deep tone, the Strad copies I tried at his shop were much brighter than mine.

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