V.com weekend vote: What is the most unique decorative element you've seen on a stringed instrument?

October 2, 2020, 9:39 PM · A violin (or viola, cello, etc) is more than a musical instrument -- very often it is also a work of art in itself. And sometimes, makers go beyond the boundaries of "normal" and create elements on the instrument that are very unique.

fancy violin and viola elements

I thought about that idea this week when writing about the beautiful Turtle Fiddle, just completed this year by luthier Andrew Carruthers. The amount of craftsmanship, creative thinking and artistic work that goes into just one handmade stringed instrument -- just a normal one -- is staggering. Then to go outside the boundaries and do something extra-special like Andrew did - it's very impressive.

Have you encountered an instrument with a unique element that really impressed you? It could be something you saw in person, or in a book, online, in a magazine, etc. And the element could be the surface texture - as it is with the Turtle Fiddle -- or with the carving of the scroll, the fittings, the overall shape of the instrument or something else.

Beyond Andrew's Turtle Fiddle, I've seen a number of really unique instruments, including the funky-shaped Rivinus 'Pellegrina' viola pictured above. It is shaped that way for ergonomic purposes, but certainly it evokes a modern and adventurous aesthetic. I also once had a violin with very unique varnish, in which the luthier had actually mixed in some amber crystals. It was very yellow - with some subtle but definitely-there sparkles!

Not surprisingly, a lot of interesting carving elements -- like the scrolls that are carved into heads or unicorns -- can be found in Baroque instruments of the string family. The aesthetic of the time simply inspired those kinds of touches.

What interesting decorative elements have you found in stringed instruments? Please participate in the vote and then describe what you saw, the instrument where you saw it, as well as anything else you would like to add about the idea decoration that goes beyond the parameters of a "regular" violin.

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Replies

October 3, 2020 at 04:16 PM · How do you upload photos

October 3, 2020 at 04:21 PM · I honestly do not decorative scrolls or varnishes or shapes...I may be a purist, I guess, but I think my violin has inherent beauty just as it is ?? ??

October 3, 2020 at 08:08 PM · Ron, just link to photos.

October 3, 2020 at 10:29 PM · I’m a sucker for the chatoyance in figured maple.

October 4, 2020 at 12:13 AM · Nothing beats that "turtle fiddle." That's just too insane. I love it.

October 4, 2020 at 08:19 AM · I think the Lira da Braccio of Giovanni d' Andrea with it’s carved plates is one of if not the most unique decorated string instruments. A close decimals is the Ralph Agutter violin. The Voboam guitar at the MET is another, with its guilded rose, and inlay. There are also many ornamented viols and baryton. The paintings on some of the early violins comes to mind as well. All of these make the Greffuhle Strad look plain.

October 4, 2020 at 02:46 PM · Nobody has mentioned "Violins of Hope" yet. Interesting project -- I'd prefer that folks who run the program weren't profiting from it though.

October 4, 2020 at 09:11 PM · I'm a guardian of one of those Decorated Violins that came out of Mittenwald in the mid to late 1800's. Lots of inlaid elements, rope-effect edge, intricate perfling, along with a lot of inlaid elements on the pegs, tailpiece and fingerboard (the fittings are all poor quality and have been replaced by high quality materials - no inlay though).

Given the little that I know about fine woodworking, these elements take a lot of skill and time. Somebody cared about this instrument when making it. There is a term for all that decoration: Intarsia for those who like those details.

My teacher had a Viola with a great Lion Head carved as the scroll.

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