Violin/Amatus Copy

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Question
Violin Front
Violin Front  

Violin Back
Violin Back  
Hi David,
I have an old violin, and I am looking for some help in identifying it.  It appears to be a Nicolo Amati copy, but I have no idea when or where it could have been made, besides the fact that it must be 150+ years old because it has been in our family for that long.  The label on the inside of the violin reads: " Nicolas Amatus Cremonen Hieronymi Fil. ac Antonij Nepos Fecit 1618"   However, the 18 in 1618 is handwritten and is quite worn; it could also be 78.  Based on a very brief internet research session, I found two things odd about the label: 1) the spelling of "Nicolaus" appears incorrect, and 2) the date that appears to be 1618 does not align with the period in which Nicolaus's name appeared on violins coming from the Amati shop.  I have also attached pictures of the front and back of the violin if they would be of any use in identifying it.  Thank you for any assistance that you may provide, and let me know if I could provide more information or pictures to help you.

Answer
Hi Dillon
You are correct, although there were 4 different Nicolo Amati makers that worked from 1568-1730, the one that used a similar label didn't work that early. These partially correct labels were very commonplace and used by the thousands in commercial copies. From the pictures you have provided, it is easy to tell that this is a German copy from the late 1800's. It is sometimes difficult to pinpoint an exact date but the type of varnish and workmanship are clearly from the 1870's-1890's. The violin needs a lot of work and given its heritage it may not be worth making playable.  I can't see all that it needs but the edges are badly damaged and would cost a lot to restore as well as needing a complete going over. Many years of rosin was left to build up and harden on the top also causing an expensive repair in order for it to sound its best. The value of instruments like this are generally in the $500-1200 range in good playing and maintenance condition.  Of course the value to you as having been in the family cannot be assessed by me.

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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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