In Australia, most of the trade instruments that arrived during latter 1800's/1900's were not terribly good quality. So when my good friend asked me to have a look at an old violin found as part of her elderly family member's estate, I didn't expect that it would be much.
the contents of the estate otherwise are really interesting: the gavel used in the final trial of Ivan Milat (backpacker murderer); a shepherds crook that was known to have been handed down to her GREAT grandmother by HER grandmother (the patina on that stick has to be felt to be believed), a rocking chair on a mechanical spring. all sorts of stuff.
Anyhow, the violin was in a typical old shaped hard ply case, complete with its still intact set of pure gut strings, and accompanied by a full set of pure gut strings still in packaging, and a very shrivelled G string off the instrument. And three bridges, none on the instrument.
What struck me about it was its finess: a gracile instrument, longer body than I expected when I held it to playing position, and tiny narrow waist. Narrow bouts, the whole thing kind of looks womanly (I don't get into naming or genderising my violins, but this one looks like a woman). the neck seemed odd / little, but it has a beautifully carved gargoyle type head on the scroll - I have seen others where the head carving is somehow out of proportion, but this one was as delicate as the rest of the isntrument. Varnish appeared in goodish condition, aa one piece back, nothing too drastic in flaming, and a dark colouring.
So i had an appointment with my luthier today anyway, and took it down, expecting it to be a turn of the century trade violin with nothing particular about it, may be worth restoring to play especially if Chris has nephews or nieces who want to learn...that sort of thing.
Big surprise - yes it is turn of the century, but that is 1800, not 1900. It is a baroque 7/8 or ladies violin, made before 1800. the fingerboard is maple with an overlay, the neck is baroque, and there is some damage that has been glued (and glued and glued) so that it stays in position - but nothing to stabilise it from inside. that appears to be the most severe problem it has. Otherwise its in good nick, apparently well made (will know more when the neck is redone). Made in Austria or Germany, a 'cottage' industry instrument, and of upper level quality for that type. No original peg (there were 4 different pegs to choose from), a non fitting tailpiece 9full size), one of those cute little crescent chin rests.
it raises many questions for Chris - no one has ever played violin in her family, and no one knows the providence of this instrument. it was found in her uncles flat initially, he definitely didn't ever play. The family has been in Australia for a number of generations, in UK prior to that, so likely that the violin has come with one of them, but acquired how?
But wasn't that a nice find?
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