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Violin/Caspar Sa Salo violin


Caspar 1
Caspar 1  
Casper 2
Casper 2  
QUESTION: Hi Jim,  Just getting back into playing after 38yrs.  Have a silent electric(good for the neighbours) and an electric acoustic and I was looking for a very good and old acoustic violin.  I came across a Caspar Da Salo in Brecia designed instrument. Certainly a copy I suspect.    Needs a little repair and the wood was very dry.  Starting to sound a bit better now that the air and moisture are getting into it and it is getting played which hasn't happened since the 1930's I'm told.  Only issues are a split in the seam near the right side of the lower rib on the back side and also the sound post seems to have been replaced by the owner and appears to be set too high in the body.  Although I do believe that the Da Salo's were highly arched in the centre or at least the older ones were.

Labels are always questionable and this one says Caspar Da Salo In Brecia 1571.  (I doubt that).   There are some things here though that have me a little stumped.  The violin is 23 & 5/8" long 600mm.  Slightly longer than normal and the body is 14 & 1/4" long 362mm.  Spruce top with 2 piece maple back and maple ribs.   Double purfluring front and back with the back design of an interloped patter which resembles an angry demon.  Scroll is extremely intricately worked with a plant design carved on either side which resembles a single flower with the stem and leaves wrapping around and through the keys and ending in a flower.  Very beautify.  The scroll also rolls once instead of the usual twice.   

The closest thing I found to this was a 1868 German made one which is in one of the universities in the US with the single scroll twist.  I'm let to believe that the single twist relates to the holy figure of nature Pye (the gloden mean) as opposed to the double scroll twist which is a relation too logirythms. But no ornate workings on the ones that I saw in the museum.   The angry demon pattern I've seen on some of the 1890 -1920 German reproductions(and some more recent Chinese ones)... but ... this is different in that the purfurling lines of these reproductions tend to cross the path of each other across the demon's face, whereas in my one they fold like ribbons and loop under each other like a river passing under a bridge and coming up the other side.   Does any of this ring a bell in regards to the vintage.   I'm having it restored because beautiful old things need to be loved (like us old guys lol).  

Okay just some history.  I bought it from a very small antique dealer in the country for $760AUD. He's since had offers of $2000.  He obtained it from a family deceased estate after their grand mother passed away and she had it left to her by her brother (their great uncle) who owned it while he was alive.  He was a missionary in New Guinea in the 1930s.  The gentleman didn't play but he was a collector of antiques when he obtained this in the 1930s.  Its been sitting in the case, which was very well worn, since then.   Well loved instrument, no chin rest, and worn through the lacquer at the chin and shoulder points.   Oh and it came with a beautiful Perumbuco Bow made my H. Fleury which puts the bow between 1900 and 1930.  

Any ideas on the vintage mate or have you ever seen something like it?   I'm baffled.


John from Down-under.

Not Jim here, you put this up on the Question Pool rather than to Jim so I thought I would give you some information that I know.  I can't see for sure from the photo, but it appears that it does not have a neck graft which would immediately put the instrument as having been made after around 1820. BTW, the real maker is named Gasparo da Salo (with a "G" not a "C". You are correct in assessing that what you have is a copy.  Examples of what you have I have seen several times and are German made instruments from the early 1900's and were sold as "trade" instruments. As you said, some of these are not done as well, but others like yours are better.  

Viewing what I can in the pictures provided, also confirm the similarities. There were a number of different companies producing instruments with these types of ornamentation, some better than others and yours is certainly of the higher quality.  Real Gasparo instruments, while often having double purfling do not have the extreme ornamentation like yours. His instruments also were always under 14" in body length. This typical "long" version is more like that of his pupil - Maggini, which were commonly confused with da Salo. It was also not uncommon for the German manufacturers to take a regular violin and add to the outline so that they could do the double purfling, thus making the instrument 14 1/4" long. The carving on the scroll is also similar to what I have seen. I have attached a copy of a real Gasparo label from my archives.

The typical H. Fleury bow has auctioned in the $500-750 range.

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Caspar 4
Caspar 4  
Caspar 3
Caspar 3  
QUESTION: Thank You David.  I never for a moment believed that I had a real Da Salo.   However, correct me if I am wrong but I am led to believe that the labels placed on the instruments manufactured in Germany between 1890 and 1920 were also required to have a stamp on them of "made in Germany".  Is this the case?  The one that appears in the National Museum of Music in South Dakota is the same design (no scroll work) ... made in Germany in 1868 but doesn't have made in Germany on the label as Germany didn't exist as a country then.    Just throwing it out there.

David, have you seen this scroll design?   Does it have any significance or meaning?    I have checked the neck and included a photo.  There appears to be no neck graft.  Its all one piece. I have checked the outline of the instrument and it appears to be well within the normal parameters of other more recent instruments so there doesn't seem to be any adding to it.  The additional length in size is all body.

Just one more question...and may I say thank you for all your help so far...There is a very unusual chin fitting at the base of the instrument where a chin rest would be in a modern violin.  Its a small ebony piece that fits like a chin rest but has only one leg unlike the chin rest which is fitted with 2 legs.   I have added a photo.   I am certain that you have seen this before.  Can you tell me its correct name and when were these used and why instead of a chin rest?

BTW looks like the purchase was worth it for the bow alone BUT having had the violin out of the case and hammering at it for 2 days it has begun to respond beautifully.  Tone is changing each day and its sounding warm and rich.  Must be the moisture in the air getting into the very dry wood.   Its really quite uplifting whether it was made in 1900 or 1860 or any other time.  Certainly a treasure to be loved and played.

Cheers John

ANSWER: Hi again John
You are correct about the "Made in" labels however on many a case I have seen that these labels were missing as it was legal to have a separate label that simply said " Deutchland", "Germany" or "Made in Germany".  It depended on the year. In 1891 the McKinley Tariff Act required that items that were imported into the United States be marked with the country of origin. In 1914 this act was again revised to require that the words "Made in" also be used. Once again in 1921 the act was revised to require that the country of origin name be in English.

I have seen that scroll design with an instrument with the back purfling as you describe and marked Casparo da Salo, just as yours is labeled, and it was clearly a late 1800's or early 1900's German made instrument.  I don't remember now if the one I saw had a Country of origin label or not as it has been some time. I don't give labels to much value anyway, as they are so often wrong. You are correct that it does not have a neck graft, so no mater what that puts it post 1820.

You didn't include a picture of the Chin Rest but some of the early ones only had a single leg and were just a very small crescent shape that followed the edge of the violin.  This was mostly to grab up under the jaw bone so that when shifting position, the violin could more easily be gripped. Spohr was the first one to have designed and used a chin rest. Here is a web site with a drawing of one and they are also making a new one of a similar style -

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Sarasate chin rest
Sarasate chin rest  
QUESTION: Hi Again David.  Don't know what happened with the chin rest photo last time but have attached one now.   I have read the article you suggested and I think I have identified the chin rest as a Skinny Sarasate. Last question Were these skinny sarasate used in the 1900s and if not then in what period were they common? Are they still available today?

Thank you.  You have been very helpful.


Yes John, that is the Sarasate Chin Rest referred to as the Skinny. They were used up until the early 1900's, but they really started going out of style in the late 1800's. It could have been original equipment on your instrument as that would put its age also in the late 1800's to early 1900's time period. I have seen a few, I probably had some in my old chin rest box, but most shops just throw them away unless they put one on display. The company from that web site is the only one that I have seen that makes anything close to it today.



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David Lashof


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.)


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.

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

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.

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

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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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