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Violin/Who was the violin maker?

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printed label
printed label  
violin f design
violin f design  
QUESTION: I was advised that this copy of a Jacobus Stainer violin was made in the mid 1700's in Nordhausen, Germany.  While the name of the maker could not be recalled at the time, I was told I could determine the name by the "f" holes.  Can you tell me who made this violin?  Also, please correct any misinformation I have.

ANSWER: Hi
I'm not sure if I can be of much help. I never heard of any before and I could only find 3 violin makers in my database of over 20,000 from the town of Nordhausen, and none of those are really well known or whose work is easily recognizable. The picture of the f hole could be hundreds if not thousands of different makers.  I do agree that from what little I can see, that it is German and is a Stainer model copy, but without seeing it better, I could not say if it is 1700's or early to mid 1800's.   I doubt anyone could tell who made this instrument just from photographs and I would seriously question anyone that claims they could do that. You really need to have it looked at in person as there is so much that can't be seen in photographs.  A makers work is not just the "f" hole shape or other general outline, but the subtleties of arching, fine details of the purfling, thicknesses, varnish texture and depth of field and so much more, none of which shows in a picture. Even interior construction style can help with identification of country, town, age and even an individual makers workmanship. Even seeing an instrument in person and having it to examine for hours or even days is sometimes not enough, there are many many instruments that will never be identified, and with with lessor known makers, it even becomes harder.  

I would take it to a violin shop for an in person evaluation.  

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

bow view 1
bow view 1  

bow view 2
bow view 2  
QUESTION: Thank you for your help on the violin.  The appraiser seemed as much interested in the bow, which seems not much different than other bow pictures I have seen on the internet.  Is there something about my pictures that is important?

Answer
The bow has a few earmarks of a couple of different well known makers work. One being that of Vuillaume. The rounded edges of the frog and the round recess that the frog sits in on the stick.  The bow is also Sterling Silver mounted which is used on better bows. However, none of that is certain, Vuillaume usually stamped his name on the bows, many copies exist even using those styles, some of which are worth very little.  So again, have it looked at more closely.  Sometimes it works out that a violin may not be worth much when the bow can be worth many thousands of dollars. This is not too uncommon with instruments made in the 1870's -1920's when many famous bow makers got their start and supplied bows before they were well respected makers, and there is nothing that says that this bow is as old as your violin.  

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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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