del Gesu vs. Strad model

March 30, 2007 at 06:20 AM · I've always been wondering the answer to this question. What is the major differences between the Strad and del Gesu model? I no that the f-holes are allegedly a dead giveaway, but what about them? What about the shaping and bouts can you tell that the instrument is a del Gesu or a Strad model?


Replies (40)

March 30, 2007 at 11:14 AM · I go by the F holes, and if they don't look del Gesu, but are about the same size I assume Strad model. If not like del Gesu and also shorter maybe it's an Amati or Stainer model. That's all I know. Del Gesu holes look pointy at the top and bottom, like thus:

March 30, 2007 at 02:41 PM · del Gesu's F holes have more character - they are often sloppy and uneven. Sometimes the two f holes do not even line up! The holes are also wider and have more of jagged look them.

March 30, 2007 at 04:08 PM · Ho, interesting! I always wondered the same thing and didn't realize it was something so simple.

Reminds me of the time my husband was showing off by identifying the make of every car in a magazine just from its photo...then I realized he was just looking at the logos on the vehicles, which were small but visible. :D

Thanks for asking this question, Ian!

March 30, 2007 at 08:22 PM · His f holes were sloppy and jagged? And he was a sloppy carver? Then, heck, I wouldn't want a del Gesu then. Hee hee.

March 30, 2007 at 08:28 PM · Pfui! :) The imperfections are what give a great del Gesu its character--much like human beings, isn't it... :)

March 30, 2007 at 08:40 PM · ..i am so happy i asked this question. Thank you guys for all your responses. Just wondering, for other famous luthiers, is there anything that can attribute a piece to someone at a glance? One i no of is that Scarampella used very thin purfling. I love this kind of stuff.

March 30, 2007 at 09:50 PM · Precisely. More character, less clones.

March 31, 2007 at 02:03 AM · It makes you wonder two awesome violins that sound amazing. One has an apparent flaw in F hole design and the other is essentially perfect. It makes you wonder what makes the violins special. It can't be the F holes. I am sure you could negate other parts of the violin as well. So what is it that makes them special?

March 31, 2007 at 04:20 AM · What makes them special?

They cost a lot of money.

March 31, 2007 at 05:40 AM · the sound is more involved in the build if you really compare the shape of the violins, lets say, a strad between 1714-1718 and a guarneri 1740-1743 both are in the maker's prime and if you look at the shape the strad is noticeably larger than the guarneri theres also a difference in the form and shape under the tailpiece and fingerboard between the two models

March 31, 2007 at 11:32 AM · >shape the strad is noticeably larger than the guarneri

thats very interesting. i always thought that guarneri's were wider and bigger, in general, providing their big, aggressive sound.

March 31, 2007 at 11:46 AM · Hi,

Del Gésus are generally smaller (at least not as wide as the large pattern Strads). Though with Strad (especially post-1700) the lenght of the back is standard - around 255mm - Del Gésus vary greatly. Some like the Ysaÿe hover around 351-352 (quite small) and some like the Leduc (a late Del Gésu) measure in at around 358.

With most models available in North America commercially, people have sort of standardized the lenght of the back at 355.

But other indicators are the arching and the bouts.

And Maura - it depends on the imperfections and the human being.


March 31, 2007 at 12:04 PM · if the shape, the size, the f hole whatever has anything to do with the sound,,,with certainty, then the search for the holy grail will be long over. incidental findings are incidental findings. i like one word used in one of the posts,,,,"apparent".

apparently we have have opinions on the matter, but apparently we have no idea what we are talking about:)

with no disrespect, i have a feeling not many here have ever opend up a violin, not to mention of making one or even going through the thought process in the dream of making one...

there are generally 4 catagories of thingys:

1. things we know we know

2. things we know we dont know

3. things we dont know we know

4. things we dont know we dont know.

where are we?


March 31, 2007 at 02:00 PM · The differences between the real things are much different than with "copies". There are lots of times I couldn't tell a "Strad" from a "del Gesu" when looking at old German trade violins, including, sometimes, the f-holes, because makers who aren't trying real hard to be someone else will tune up the "errors" they perceive in the original design to fit their own aesthetic.

The best way to figure out the real differences is to find some large pix on the web (go to and compare specific things on the real things. More or less consistent aspects are that f-holes are usually more abrupt and compressed, left-to-right, on del gesus; corners are shorter and smaller, and the c-bouts are rounder (Strad c-bouts are usually a bit flat in the middle). Also, the outer bouts can be a bit rounder than Strads--that's more noticeable at the ends.

If you want to learn various models, the (excellent) advice Bob Bein gave me was to learn Stradivari well, and then compare everything to that. You do need some sort of ideal to compare things to, or it's much more difficult.

As Christian points out, originally there was an appreciable difference in size (some of the most famous Strads approach 358mm, no del Gesu does), but with later "models" you never know--some French del Gesu copies measure as much as 359mm and more.

March 31, 2007 at 03:19 PM · "There are lots of times I couldn't tell a "Strad" from a "del Gesu" ...will tune up ... to fit their own aesthetic. "

In that case, it's not really either model. That's why you couldn't tell which:) You'd reach a point where the only characteristic it would have of anything would be one single characteristic of S., and you'd call it an S. model variant. Of course that takes extra study and effort beyond what's ordinarily needed. My personal low level of understanding makes me say if it's not clearly one or the other, it's some personal model. Anybody can tell a good S. from a good G. though, from the F holes, don't you think? Beyond that is more than most people are willing or able to devote to the subject.

March 31, 2007 at 03:28 PM · Al Ku,

Did you take landmark?

March 31, 2007 at 04:50 PM · Jim, del Gesu f-hole, or Strad?

March 31, 2007 at 05:03 PM · Michael, German Shepherd or Poodle?

March 31, 2007 at 05:36 PM · Darton-

Im gonna say that that is a del Gesu, and not only becuase i no the Kreisler is a del Gesu, but because the corners seem "less sharp"..


March 31, 2007 at 05:53 PM · If it was made by either S. or G., I'd say G. also, because I still see that wicked pointyness at the top.

March 31, 2007 at 07:33 PM · strad....

March 31, 2007 at 07:45 PM · I like that tailpiece even if it is on crooked.

March 31, 2007 at 08:07 PM · Somebody spent some time whittling that sucker out.

April 1, 2007 at 01:06 PM · Looking at the corners or the name is cheating! It's a del Gesu--there's a period where del Gesu was apparently copying Strads, both the f-holes and the archings, and Kreisler's 1733 violin is one of those.

April 1, 2007 at 01:42 PM · micheal, thanks. it goes to show that knowing a little or even some can be confusing at best and self deceiving at worst.

i think it take years and lots of study or paying attention to learn to appreciate the treatment of the corners and f holes, etc within the proper context/propective of looking at the violin as a WHOLE.

April 1, 2007 at 06:00 PM · Al, when somebody makes a d.g. copy, they make a d.g. F hole. That doesn't exclude the possibility of shepadoodles, obviously, accidental or intentional. Or neither shep nor poodle. If you want to take it to that kind of extreme, obviously there would be violins even experts would disagree on.

April 1, 2007 at 06:04 PM · I think there's a very soft line to be drawn, not a hard one. No one can fully imitate another's style, so at what point does diverging from the perfect line disqualify a maker from saying he's making a particular model? I don't think that's for us to decide for him.

April 1, 2007 at 06:25 PM · No one can tell what someone's trying to do all of the time... That's for sure.

April 1, 2007 at 09:02 PM · jim, i cannine really say i understand the points you have made, even though we could be saying similar things.

i have said couple things as an outsider which are

1. it may be asking too much to associate one particular feature like f hole, corner, etc with one particular maker without taking in the whole picture or story.

2. in the same vein, it may be far reaching to suggest that s or g each has its own distinctive voice based on, again, one feature or two.

woof woof

April 1, 2007 at 09:54 PM · If a maker was trying to copy s or g, the most likely thing for him to get at least kinda sorta right on purpose is the F hole, I think. If he's not copying s or g, or if he's not doing it recognizably, then well woof to him.

April 1, 2007 at 09:56 PM · jim, i see your point now. i wonder how the graduation differs between s and g, something one cannot really assess by looking from outside.

of course, then we have that cannone, one that was played by n paganini, one that was supposed to be the best sounding violin ever,,,,with a very berry thick graduation, reportedly thicker than 300 year old tomato sauce,,,

April 4, 2007 at 04:11 AM · Wow. Thanks guys and gals for the postings. My violin has a great sound in the hands of a master (which I am not sadly), upon which I place its value. The violin is full of imperfections, literally. I wonder constantly how such an imperfect violin can produce such a great sound. By the comments posted, I have hope now my imperfect violin may someday be of value to someone else. :-)

Also, incredibly, the f-holes in the photo (link) are darn near exact to the f-holes in my violin, points and all. The photo shows the left f-hole to be slightly wider than the right. This is exactly the way mine are. My luthier says he does this purposely. And here I thought it was an imperfection. fascinating.

This thread gives me a new hobby - research.

April 3, 2007 at 11:45 PM · I know about as much about making a violin as I do about making a silicon wafer, except that one is a highly repeatable process with a highly repeatable result, whereas the other is not. And therein lies the rub, the human element that goes into the making of a violin. The violin is something very much more than the sum of it's parts and the "glue" holding it all together is as a result of the efforts of maker. A perfect violin in appearance is, to me, not a perfect violin. I want to see some remnant that betrays the hands of the maker. Maybe the f holes are used in some cases to voice the instrument, to bring to life a weakness? Does anyone else know of these things?

July 10, 2007 at 11:05 PM · Get hi-res pix and look hard. Between the web, scanning books I own and seeing them in museums, I've got pix of well over half Del Gesu's output. What an experimenter he was! The major differences:

- Del Gesus are usually 350 - 355 mm in body length. Strads are generally a bit larger. But this isn't something you can perceive from a picture.

- Strads look squarer through the center bouts. I think this actually a visual trick created by the corners. Conversely Del Gesu corners are smaller. But everything with Del Gesu is variable.

- Del Gesu f's are highly variable, especially after 1739. Yes, many f's have that long, pointy angular look you associate with him, but certainly not all of them.

- Del Gesus vary tremendously in the height of the arching and its scooping toward the edge. At the 1994 Guarneri exhibition this was the most surprising thing to me. Many are quite low arched, others anything but. Even instruments from the same year vary. Some late instruments have high arching in the back but not the table.

- Later instruments (after about 1736) have long hooked corners that often show well on the backs (the table corners are usually worn down). If you can find a good picture of the Joachim (1737) or Vieuxtemps (1741) you will see this well. The Joachim is especially beautiful and quite unworn. It is also a vivid red. The actual fiddle is redder than any picture of it I've seen.

- Purfling on later instruments is often rough and ready. Look at the corner mitres on the Heifetz Guarneri Strad poster and you will see this. On others it wanders around and does not come close to maintaining an even margin. As I see pix of innumerable Del Gesu copies, my impression is that most copyists lack the nerve to copy all of the idiosyncracies, especially the purfling.

Del Gesus where the public can see them are scarce: there is the Heifetz in San Francisco, The Kreisler at the Library of Congress, The Baron Vitta which is also going to the LC. The places I know of where you can see more than one Strad in one place: Smithsonian Institution (DC), Library of Congress (DC), Royal Palace in Madrid, Spain. They are gorgeous. If you are at a big dealer and they have one around, sometimes you can try one out.

July 11, 2007 at 03:19 AM · Hi Fredrick,

Have to meet the Lord Wilton del gesu 1742 in person?I have just wonder the colour of it from diffient sources has vary alot.some redder & some with very pale nut brown.what's your observation?

The Chi-Mei foundation also have a great collection,which include the ole bull of the most eccentric del gesu,especially the F -holes length and asymmetrical style.

July 13, 2007 at 02:42 PM · When looking and handling representative examples of Strads, del Gesus, and any other old master as well as bow makers, remember that these makers went through periods of development of their craft. In their early years they would show the strong influences of their teachers whereas in their later years because of poor eyesight and shakey hands, their quality might diminish. Please also take into account that as a maker in the old world would prosper he would take on other craftsmen (apprentises and "sub-contractors") who would make components or perform processes on the construction of a given shop piece. Antonio Stradivari's sons had to correct or destroy some of their father's last instruments he built because of the deteriorating quality of his work in his old age. Yet everybody in Cremona demonstrated his influence in their own respective pieces. Don't expect every Strad or del Gesu to look alike. Get Jalovec's works and study the violins, scrolls, purflings, f-holes, and finishes.

July 16, 2007 at 06:51 PM · The Lord Wilton was at the Met in 1994. My recollection of it is "orange." Tarisio's online pix, including the LW, all have a weird color cast that's not right. Most books are not right as to color, either, actually.

July 16, 2007 at 07:01 PM · Yes, most of the photos try to make them look like hot tamales. When I finally started to see them up close I was struck by the fact that they're just...brown. Like any other violin :)

July 28, 2007 at 12:14 PM · I remember when Kyung-Wha Chung played here in Australia, about the late 1970s, she had an early Guarneri - 1726 I think. I was sitting quite close and I was struck by the fact that it didn't look much like a "classic" Guarneri and even had gold-colour varnish - at least under the bright light.

By the way, I remember her as being quite a young lass, but golly, she's now 59!

July 29, 2007 at 01:20 PM · Well I would answer this question with another question. How can musicians tell the difference between the playing of Perlman and Zukerman?

In the same way violinists learn about the habits of other violinists, violinmakers and experts learn about the habits of the great makers such as Stradivari and Guarneri and the models they created.

In conclusion: a certain type of vibrato unique to Perlman (Zukerman) equals a certain outline unique to the Guarneri (Stradivari) model. (just to give one example)

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