Johann Reiter label

November 17, 2018, 7:15 AM · This is my first post, thanks for all the wonderful information these discussions afford.

Does anyone have a reference image for a 20th century Johann Reiter maker label. I know he was a prolific builder but I have yet to find any images of his labels.

Thank you~

Replies (28)

November 17, 2018, 1:01 PM ·

You might try asking these folks.

I have a quite extensive library of violin books and I don't recall seeing one in a text.There isn't one in Jalovec. Probably your best bet is a shop that has one for sale. If you can trust their expertise, they might have taken or could take a photo of a label, although you couldn't be sure that it was correct without context.

Although Mittenwalders are nice, there isn't much money in the study of them, from a violin dealer perspective, so you probably won't see many books dedicated to that school of making. Also, Reiter was a family as well as a firm, so you will find instruments from the early-mid 19th c through the post-WW2 period bearing their labels.

November 17, 2018, 4:43 PM · Thank you for the information. I will inquire there to see if they have anything. I am just trying to see if the instrument I have is even worth bringing for an initial appraisal.

Edited: November 18, 2018, 7:05 AM · He has about 2 column inches in WILLIAM HENLEY'S "UNIVERSAL DICTIONARY OF VIOLIN & BOW MAKERS." That is actually a substantial space for that book. He made violins, violas and cellos and lutes - all praised in the book. All his instruments were made by hand, by himself. He received medals at the 1905 Nürnberg Exhibition.

His typical label format is shown thus:
Johann Reiter
Mittenwald 1889

(But if other information in the article is correct he would have been only 10 years old at the time-????)

He was the son of:
Johann Baptiste Reiter, who is listed in Jalovec, but not in Henley where he is only mentioned as Johann's father.

I have read elsewhere that some of the entries in Henley's book are self-promoting, provided but the subjects themselves or those with a positive (or negative) bias.

Edited: November 18, 2018, 2:42 AM · As usual Henley assumes every maker is the builder when in fact it probably means Reiter owned a shop where violins with his label were manufactured by his workers, or even he bought violins wholesale and finished them and put in his label in his shop.
November 18, 2018, 7:05 AM · Not true at all!
Edited: November 18, 2018, 7:43 AM · oh so you're the expert now, rubbish. You obviously don't have a clue how the Mittenwald verleger operated.
Edited: November 18, 2018, 9:04 AM · Maybe, but the Henley entry re. Reiter was very specific about his personal making without assistants.

But I do own a copy of Henley and I read it from time to time. I also own 4 instruments by makers listed and described in Henley, one is an antique "factory" cello and Henley is not shy to mention that. Another cello of mine by a maker listed in Henley is signed in ink by the maker although I suspect it is a "factory" instrument but can't be sure and after examining it Frank Passa said it was one of the maker's top instruments (??). Makers of two of my violins also have paragraphs in Henley and having met them both I am 100% certain they are not factories.

My wife's family came from generations of "southeast Germany" violin-making ancestors (many listed in Henley and Jalovek) dating back hundreds of years, I think I have some idea of how they worked.

My understanding has been that much of the German violin "factory" output was actually cottage-industry production (of both/either parts and/or complete or nearly complete instruments) that was middle-manned by the named company (it certainly kept down the overhead). I would suspect that finishing was left to the "company" or named "maker" itself for product consistency. However, I'm always open to learning more.

Edited: November 18, 2018, 10:10 AM · The name on the label was the boss, who oversaw production and chose the models and designs, the idea that he actually had a hand in the actual physical making of the violins is a mistake that people like Henley made too often. I got this from top German violin expert Jacob Saunders in Austria, if you think you know more than him, you're just plain wrong.
Edited: November 18, 2018, 4:24 PM · Johann Reiter (born 1879), son and apprentice of Johann Baptist Reiter (1834-1899), who was scholar and successor of the legendary Jean (Johannes Cornelius) Vauchel (1782-1856). So before indulging ourselves in generalizations, we should not forget that it's a high end tradition Johann Reiter came down from.
As well as his father he was regarded as one of the outstanding proponents of Mittenwald makers of stringed instruments at his time. And as Lyndon told us correctly, there were only few makers working independently around 1900 - and he was definitely one of them. He definitely wasn't a "Verleger“ like Neuner& Hornsteiner but a gifted craftsman and perfectionist. Without any doubt he labeled and sold what was built in his workshop, and not in a sense of an assembly line. The quality of his output was generally high and consistent.
His workshop was taken over by Erich Sandner in the late 1950ies (I'm not sure about the exact year), a luthier who had moved there from the "Musikwinkel" after WWII. Although producing good quality, Sandner never equaled the skills of Reiter, but nevertheless he obviously continued to use Johann Reiter labels at least until 1961, which brought some confusion to the late "Reiter" violins - but honestly, it isn't especially hard to tell them apart.
A real Johann Reiter might very well be a real bang for the buck, and there are not few pros who seem to be quite happy with his instruments.

I'm sorry to say this, but generalisations like "german is all Verleger", "all chinese are bad", "old is always better than new" etc aren't really helpful at all. And be there a Jacob Saunders in Klosterneuburg near Vienna, but it's not him who is posting here.

November 18, 2018, 4:30 PM · Btw, Becky - if it's a genuine Reiter and a good one, it may very well hit the €10k in retail, so it should be worth to check that.
Edited: November 18, 2018, 4:32 PM · I don't know Reiter personally, I would just assume if he was considered prolific that he was not a one man shop but rather had workers working for him that did most of the work, so did Stradivari. He may or may not have participated in the more critical work, but his most important job would be running an efficient shop and overseeing that his workers did their job well. EH Roth violins in the 20s were of a very high standard but its unlikely an actual Roth worked on anything but the top of the line models. Reiter may have done this too, made different priced models of varying quality and wood selection, it was pretty much the standard way of doing business at the time. The idea of one man slaving away in his little workshop doing all the work is more of a fantasy except for true amateur makers, It would seem Reiter is no amateur and ran a tidy shop.
November 18, 2018, 11:24 PM · But aren't there plenty of "soloist" workers nowadays, too? Most luthiers I know work like that. And this wasn't uncommon one hundred years ago, when a master would have worked alone or with an apprentice. One generation after him, another top level maker (my personal favorite in later Mittenwald violin mm asking history), Josef Kantuscher, worked the same way. But you're right, many workshops there which produce different quality levels are run like small business with 3-10 workers. But I didn't learn about different quality levels in Reiter instruments, so I'd assume that there wasn't, but only the top level line as most outstanding luthiers nowadays do as well. (And it was a really small workshop...)
November 19, 2018, 7:07 PM · TIME TRAVEL:
A visit to a German violin making village 111 years ago:

November 20, 2018, 3:44 AM · Checked with Jacob Saunders in Austria, he says you're all very wrong, Johann Reiter was a Verleger that ordered his violins in parts and sold thousands of violins, impossible for a one man operation, shows you need to be careful where you get your "information"!!
November 20, 2018, 4:55 PM · Lyndon, indeed thousands would be too much for one person. But still I'm quite sure. Too tired now after another long day, it's midnight here and in Mittenwald. I'll check it again when there's time and I will let you know, no matter the result. It's not the first time I would be mistaken in this life, although this time it would be a surprise.

Meanwhiles, Becky, someone who really knows her stuff is Anette Roeben of Corilon violins. With her shop in Munich, she has all available informations nearby and is occupied with Mittenwald instruments frequently. And I know that she dealt with several Reiter violins in person in the past, so she should know about them. She's a nice person and usually happy to help. You find the link to her homepage via this site as a sponsored advertising.

November 20, 2018, 6:17 PM · corilion's appraisals are not always accurate IMHO
November 20, 2018, 6:34 PM · Tomorrow I will have it in hand. I will share a picture of the labels of both instruments I receive. I am 40 miles from anywhere that can give a verbal appraisal. Thanks for all the great comments. I really enjoy the banter.
November 20, 2018, 7:16 PM · you can never appraise a violin by pictures of the label, it could easily be fake, you appraise the violin by the workmanship; detailed pictures might give a rough idea but there's no substitute for a real expert seeing the instrument in person

in the mean while your best option would be to post detailed pictures on, there are a few people there that could give you a good idea, as to the label, thats not so important

November 20, 2018, 7:17 PM · if you bought it on ebay there's a good chance the label is fake
Edited: November 22, 2018, 4:19 PM · Mittenwald Verleger shops (most artisanal makers produced for at that time) contributing to german stringed instruments mass production:
* J.A.Baader & Co (1850-1934)
* Neuner & Hornsteiner (1850-1930)

Eventually there is a chance that I consulted the wrong sources or dind't do my homework too well, bit IF there were other Verleger shops, I haven't been able to find any hint, be it on site or online. No need to argue, any additional facts will be highly appreciated and warmthly welcomed if better assignable than expert opinion (level of evidence E in my professional field, which is regarded as the lowest level of evidence possible).
Lyndon, my goal is not to promote historic instruments of certain provenance, nor is it to bully you or anyone else here. (And I totally agree with your last three posts in this thread.) I'm not an expert, but only someone with a faible for fine violins, not only but also of german provenance, and since I'm playing a gorgeous Markneukirchen violin, a breathtaking Austrian viola and another fantastic Mittenwald violin, I'm especially interested in these regions and try to learn as much as possible about their history. And since I live nearby, it became a bit like a hobby.
(No reason to add here my rather mediocre, most probably Romanian "office" ebay viola with fake Italian label and a good but not great Danish violin I use at my parent's place - but as an addicted, I need an instrument everywhere...)

If you do a Google research, you will find only very few Johann Reiter instruments on the current market - compared to the other big labels next to nothing if there were thousands and thousands of them. What happened to them? Tarisio lists auctions of 3 cellos, 7 violins and 3 violas over 3 decades. Corilon dealt with two violins, one from 1949 (opus 254), and one from 1961 which is described as "most probably from Sandner workshop", on which I would bet my most noble body parts. Bromptons lists an especially interesting instrument from 1964 - when JR had already passed away - and one from 1872 before JR's birth, so obviously from JR senior. I won't continue this list, everyone can repeat this search by his own. To me, even if I had no further informations about the individual master luthier Johann Reiter from Mittenwald, this still would not look like the output of a Verleger who occupied dozens of dependent artisan luthiers. But eBay & Co are full of Neuner & Hornsteiner and Roth (different topic, I know).

November 22, 2018, 4:25 PM · ... on the other hand... two JR violins and one JR viola in professional use among my personal acquaintances, and according to my luthier another Pro JR violin he gets to service regularly...
Edited: November 22, 2018, 9:42 PM · most of the Mittenwald makers were verlegers.
Edited: November 22, 2018, 11:13 PM · Most of the Mittenwald makers around 1900 until the 30ies were dependent artisanal makers producing for Verleger, besides running their farms and hosting guests who tried to escape the dusty summer heat of the metropolitan areas. (The region was on of the first in southern Germany to develop tourism.) This is slightly different from "most were Verleger".
Besides these and the few businessmen who run the Verleger companies, there remained a small but stable group of independent makers producing under their own name.

It is also interesting to know that the production process of Mittenwald Verleger instruments heavily differed from the Dutzendware in the Schoenbach region. I'm sure Mr. Saunders can tell you more about that. In Mittenwald, even a dependent maker would have produced an instrument completely by himself, from scratch to finish, so each Verleger violin still is the work of one individual maker, no matter the quality. In Schoenbach the production process was divided, and there were families who only produced scrolls, while others would have produced backs, tops or ribs, and again others who assembled and finished all these parts if this was not done in small workshop "factories". And until the time past WWII, Mittenwald makers were proud if their craftsmanship and regarded the Schoenbach maker families who arrived in the late 40ies with disgust, not only because them beeing economical competitives, but because their use of power tools.

November 22, 2018, 11:45 PM · Correct is: "Most of the Mittenwald instruments were Verleger instruments."
November 23, 2018, 12:13 AM · all I can say is you need to have a good talk with Mr. Saunders before you make all these claims.
November 23, 2018, 6:09 PM · Okay Lyndon. You're right an I am wrong, and my humble efforts were wasted because I simply didn't talk to the only knowledgeable person. So I'll leave it like that, and let's take all of this with a grain of salt. The mass production topic isn't very important anyway, only interesting from a historic point of view.
November 28, 2018, 6:44 AM · Thank you everyone for the information. The image of the label on the sale site didn't show the entire label. Upon receipt it appears to be a JR - Erich Sandner from 1969. It has no cracks but the varnish is in rough shape; it appears to be well played/used. I restrung it and for my beginner ears it sounds very nice compared to my extremely inexpensive student model from china. So far I'm really happy with it.

PS, it did NOT come from ebay...

November 28, 2018, 11:31 AM · If it's an Erich Sandner from this time, it's most probably good "student level" or or average "intermediate" and worth maybe 2+k in perfect condition or less according to the preservation status. I don't like these classifications so let's say that I'd expect it to bring a beginner quite a long way until you will feel the urgent need to upgrade. (This claim is based on not even a handful of ES I've tried yet, and on even less that I've seen for sale.)

Congrats and have fun with your new partner!

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