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Violin/possible Stainer violin

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Question
David,
I believe I have a Stainer violin but I'm not sure. The violin has no printed label on the inside but it does look as if Jacobus put his actual handwritten label in it. It says "Jacobus Stainer in Absam PropeOemiponlom 1690." However there is no lion's, or woman's head carved on the scroll and there seems to be some sort of stamp on the back below the neck saying STAINER. I can send pictures if you need them. Do you think this could be a real Stainer?

Answer
Hi Charity
I am sorry to tell you but the instrument that you have is almost certainly a copy. Although Stainer did mostly use handwritten labels in his instruments, on rare occasions he used printed ones.  They both have been copied many thousands of times. Although some Stainers have lions heads or other types of non scrolls he also used conventional ones so that in itself doesn't help either. What does help is that you state that the instrument is branded STAINER on the back by the neck. Real Stainers are never branded. Almost exclusively the copies have a medium to dark brown varnish rather than a rich golden amber, the wood is fairly plain vs. highly flamed maple and exquisite quality spruce, the arching is overly high in exaggeration and the workmanship is usually sub par.

The best way is to have it looked at it person, but I would be glad to look at some pictures. Also, many times the labels of the copies are carelessly misspelled, and if you typed the label information as it truly appears, that would be one of the copied labels. Although also copied correctly, real labels are Absom not Absam. Prope is not capitalized. Oenipontum, not Oemiponlom. Lastly, in 1680, probably due to persecution as a heretic, he fell into a manic-depressive syndrome, dying three years later in 1683, so the date of 1690 cannot be accurate.  Until death records were verified much more recently many of the copies had instruments labeled as made all the way until 1720.  

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David Lashof

Expertise

I can answer questions on violin, viola, cello and bass making, repair and maintenance as well as supply general violin value ranges and information on instrument makers’ assuming the instrument's as labeled. I don't give values for modern makers as many of these modern makers are yet unknown to me. I can only give you feedback based on what information you give me, and no authority on the instrument can know every maker's work that ever lived. I have access to many books on makers and auction prices on over 25,000 makers, as well as having 36 years of experience with selling and appraising violins. Without having the instrument in hand, any estimate over the internet is just a guess as the label inside an instrument is more often wrong than right, so just having that information is not very useful. Pictures can sometimes be helpful but only so much, as the "feel" of the instrument along with small clues in workmanship and varnish cannot be seen in pictures. Any pictures should be high quality close-ups of the top and back. Additional photos of the front and treble side of the neck are also useful. It is always best to have an instrument seen in person at a violin shop that does appraisals. I can also provide advice on bows, rosin, strings and other string instrument accessories. As I am now retired, I have no bias towards selling anything; I only wish to share my knowledge and experience by providing information for those that may be getting confused by misinformation, misdirection or conflicting statements. (While I have seen many thousands of instruments and have performed numerous appraisals; if I have not evaluated an instrument in person, any information I set forth in an opinion is just that, an opinion based solely on what you have provided. Thusly, no financial decision should be based on that opinion, but rather, further investigation should be performed by having the instrument examined in person.)

Experience

I am a retired violin maker and repairman with 35 years experience having worked in Chicago and Maryland at 5 different violin shops and music stores including the first violin repairman at William Harris Lee in Chicago, the head repairman at Weavers Violins in Maryland, and in my own shop of 25 years. I have made 160 instruments and have restored countless professional level and student grade instruments. I am an accomplished violinist having performed with semi-professional as well as amateur groups although I haven't played for years and mostly stay away from questions about playing. I have taught violin making and restoration to about 20 students; three of which have gone on professionally and now have their own shops. I know violins from playing, selling, repairing, making and teaching.

Organizations
Violin Society of America (VSA). American String Teachers Association (ASTA)

Education/Credentials
I graduated from the prestigious 4 year Chicago School of Violin Making in 1981 under Master Violin Maker Tschu Ho Lee. I also studied with violin maker Willis M. Gault in Washington DC from 1973-75, who was the former owner of the oldest known example of an instrument from the modern violin family, an Andreas Amati Viola.

Awards and Honors
2008 Chester Petranek Award for service to the music community. ASTA award for service. Top All Expert in Violin for 2014 and 2015.

Past/Present Clients
I have worked with many professional musicians from DC area Symphonies as well as players from all over the US. Here are just a few, Leonard Slatkin - Former conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra. Doris Gazda - Nationally renowned string specialist and composer. Bernard Greenhouse, Tanya Anisimova - Internationally renowned Solo Cellists. Jody Gatwood, Mark Pfannschmidt, Lori Barnet, Doug Dubé, Judy Silverman - National Philharmonic Orchestra. Robert Blatt, David Hardy, Glen Garlick - National Symphony Orchestra. Eddie Stubbs, Brendan Mulvahill, Nate Leath - Professional Fiddle Players. David Basche, Pat Braunlich, John Knudson, Romano Solano, Ed Ferris, Fred Lieder - freelance musicians.

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