Black edging on a Violin Scroll? Seen it? Makers?

July 23, 2008 at 03:54 PM · I have a question regarding use and history of edging, purfling, piping or binding of the violin scroll edges. I once saw a picture of a scroll that was edged in black. Who are the makers that use such a technique? When was it started? Is it the sign of a certain school ie; Cremonese etc. I found one maker who did it from the 1880's, H.H. Heskett.

What other makers, contemporary and otherwise, use/used this adornment. Has anyone seen this "in person" on a violin?



Replies (20)

July 23, 2008 at 03:56 PM · I know someone with a Gadda violin with that kind of edging on the scroll. Also has a lovely red varnish.

July 23, 2008 at 04:35 PM · Hi Joe, My french Derazay violin has this black edging on the scroll, and my moms italian violin also had it. I can't remember the name of her violin, I will go home and look at it, and them get back to you with the name. Both of these instruments are a really nice warm reddish brown color, and I like the black on the scroll.

July 23, 2008 at 04:43 PM · Stradivari did it. It wasn't any kind of inlay though, but was done with paint or ink. It's completely worn off on most Strads today.

Many other makers did (do) this too.

July 23, 2008 at 08:42 PM · Ditto David's response. A whole bunch of makers have done it over the years. Sometimes people (mistakenly) associate it with French instruments.

July 23, 2008 at 08:40 PM · The scroll on my fake Rinaldi has it. Quite a nice violin, for a fraud. At least the paint is real.

Amusingly enough, my (real) H Th Heberlein has the opposite: the chamfered edges of the scroll seem to have had the varnish scraped off, then a clear coat applied to seal the wood.

July 24, 2008 at 03:28 AM · I play a 1915 Caressa & Francois - it also has the black edging on the scroll. I've seen this detail on several other French instruments I've played - I seem to remember the dealer I purchased my current instrument from telling me it's a characteristic feature of French violins.

July 24, 2008 at 01:21 PM · Why did (do) makers use black for accentuation? Why not use the varnish colour being applied to the rest of the instrument and darken it? There would at least be some continuity in the overall "flow" of the visual presentation.Black seems so "severe".

July 24, 2008 at 02:41 PM · I love the scroll work on the Hellier Stradivarius

July 24, 2008 at 09:19 PM · Peter;

Why DID makers use black for accentuation?

Consider how a violin would look if the black strips in the purfling were a more muted color. Wouldn't it lose something and look a little "vague"?

Now consider that this black purfling is one of the few remaining features indicative of tastes in the 17th century, a remnant which isn't easily worn away. This gives an idea of the "context" that the makers were working in.

These instruments when new were generally very crisp and sharply defined, and brightly colored according to many expert opinions. A contrasting color (black) would serve to accentuate this.

What was revealed when the paintings in the Sistine Chapel were cleaned and restored? The colors turned out to be garish and bright, almost cartoonish in their vividness. Detail was revealed that wasn't noticed before. Some people were horrified!

Wear and dirt on violins, dirt on paintings, and the absence of the original bright paint on old statues has left people with the impression that old art was muted and conservative. It wasn't (with some exceptions). Taste has merely followed the deterioration of these objects.

Why DO makers use black for accentuation?

Probably in an attempt to remain faithful to the original style and intent of the legendary makers.

David Burgess

July 24, 2008 at 10:22 PM · Thank you all. Thank you Mr. Burgess for sharing your vast knowledge. I always wondered what a violin without purfling would look like and upon seeing one, it looks very plain.

I could see why they would add purfling and edging in those days. Thanks to your explanation. And, I understand why it is still accepted. It is so awesome that a design from hundreds of years ago is still preferred.

The violin...such a beautiful art form.

July 24, 2008 at 09:59 PM · Thank you for that David.

July 24, 2008 at 11:18 PM · "These instruments when new were ...brightly colored according to many expert opinions."

David, did any makers use varnish in cold colors? Any blue or green or purple ones? I wonder why not.

July 25, 2008 at 01:28 AM · Jim, there may have been some deep red colors approaching purple, but I'm not aware of any greens or blues.

Why? I don't know. I've never seen any green or blue violins that struck my fancy, but that might just be because my suspenders are adjusted too tight. ;)

July 25, 2008 at 01:50 AM · Perhaps the bright varnish colours were not meant to be scrutinized up close but to give visual impact to all audience members even in the back rows of a hall (or church).Just a guess....

July 25, 2008 at 02:09 AM · Remember though, back in those days, you did not have well-lit rooms, workshops or stages-in comparison to today.....therefore, under direct sunlight, it might look garish and yellow, but in poorly lit (by todays standards) spaces, such a finish would seem less so.

Also, I'd wager that the lighter gold/yellow colored finishes, show off the quality of the wood moreso than any other color finish, regardless of lighting.

July 25, 2008 at 02:29 AM · Yeah, they didn't have sunlight either.

David, sounds like they might have been garish, but lame anyway. Nice try though, don't you think?

July 25, 2008 at 03:13 AM · My old violin, an 1884 Collin Mezin, has the black edging. I'd also heard it was a "French Thing" though others say it's not. Quite distinctive, though.

July 31, 2008 at 10:30 PM · I have recently purchased a violin which has a scroll edged in black. The c-curve joints are also edged in this way. The paint in this area is quite worn. I know nothing about the violin. I picked it up at an estate sale. It appears to have some age, and has a beautifully carved scroll. No label or marking that I can see. I plan to bring it to my local Violin shop for a look.

I am happy to send photos if anyone is interested.

August 1, 2008 at 12:29 AM · It was a common practice, especially in classical Cremonese instruments. Stradivari piped his scrolls with black ink. After 300 years, most of the ink has worn off these violins. There is often a hint of the ink left. Contemporary makers who work in the classic Cremona style will often carry on this tradition.

August 1, 2008 at 01:55 AM · I play on a Charles Gaillard, Paris 1861 violin that has a well preserved black line on the scroll chamfers. It's a very crisply made violin with a high level of craftsmanship. A concert violin of first class.

John Greenwood, Bowmaker

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