I have read many good things about the American luthier James Reynold Carlisle, and so was looking out for one. I just snagged one on Ebay, for a price that is so "too good to be true" that it's probably too good to be true. (sigh) -Or maybe not.
I'm hoping someone here might be able to shed some light on this particular violin.
OK, first, here's the auction I won:
Here's what I know about Carlisle:
His best violins are regarded my many as some of the finest ever made. He used almost exclusively American Spruce and Maple, which he hand-selected.
He developed a proprietaty varnish, known as the "sunshine" varnish. This often looked like a sunset, being deep red with some yellows, but the name was actually due to the fact that it took weeks to dry, in direct sunlight.
He was hired by the Rudolf Wurlitzer shop in Cincinnati, in aproximately his tenth year of making violins. Soon after, they had him stop using the sunshine varnish because it took so long. He continued to make fully bench-made violins until the end of his life, but most of his output was lesser trade fiddles, to pay the rent. (even some for Sears) He reportedly made about 500 violins total, but only 75 bench-made, top-quality violins. The best ones have his thumbprint on the label.
His top violins were mostly Strad-based, with some later ones deriving from the Guaneri model.
OK, So here's what confuses me about the one I just bought:
The seller thinks this is one of his trade fiddles, hence the low price. However, it has a thumbprint on the label, so I am hopeful. The scroll looks exactly like other Carlisles, and it's made from American Red Maple. However, in virtually every other way it differs from the "classic" Carlisle. Mine is (according to the seller) a Stainer copy, which is quite unusual for Carlisle. Because of this, it doesn't look anything like other Carlisle's I've seen. The f-holes are rather plain and there's no "sunshine" finish.
For comparison, here's an early one w/ the sunshine finish:
Different shape, different f-holes, different button shape... Additionally, the lablel is "missing" some words, though the name-font and thumbprint look exactly correct. The differences in shape I assume would be due to this being a different model, but I I can't find any reference to Carlisle making Stainer models. It's possible that he never used the sunshine finish after hiring out to Wurlitzer, even on his best violins. And, it's POSSIBLE, that he made a few based on Stainer. -But then again, this could indeed be a lesser model, with a fake label. It's pretty unlikely that someone would put a fake thumbprint and then claim it's a trade fiddle. Weird...
The seller say it has a "mellow but strong" tone. That's pretty much what I'm looking for (more Millstein, less Heifetz) though the bridge is painfully thick, so the entire set-up is probably off. I figure a thinner bridge & a soundpost adjustment & the old girl might really sing.
OK, well, sorry for the long post. Does anyone have any idea at all?
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