Ref :   0726

A fine and interesting violin of unknown origin, labelled
'Santo Serafino, in Venetia. 1698'
Possibly Austrian
Circa 1720

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Everything about this violin, including the maintenance done to it over a period of around 300 years, speaks of the finest in workmanship. This violin is genuinely old, dating from around the early 18th century. It has superb tone - strong, clean, balanced with projection.

It bears a very old label stating simply 'Santo Serafino, in Venetia' and date is barely legible, but seems to be 1698. Since the majority of reference photos of that maker's instruments date from the 1730s and 40s when he had reached and advanced age (he lived from 1665 to 1748) the fact remains that not much is known of his work from the late 17th century, or how his instruments were labelled at that time. Most would agree that a comparison of this violin with Santo Serafino's known work shows large divergences in general shape, f-hole style and character of the instrument. One London-based authority suggested that the violin may be of Austrian, even Viennese origin, and it is true that there is much to recommend that view, particularly in the arching, shape and even purfling. At this stage no-one feels this is the work of Santo Serafino, but we await the ruling of some big international authorities.

This is a very impressive instrument, beautifully made or very fine materials. The two-piece back and sides are of mildly-flamed maple with a medium curl, the two sides in fact are not mirrored. The button has an ebony crown, usually fitted to cover the work of a neck-graft. The top is of medium-grained tone spruce. The observable cracks in the top have all been repaired and are stable. All have been cleated on the inside. It needs to be said that the repairs are of an extremely high order, evidently carried out by a master craftsman. Furthermore, the top has been doubled all the way around - supremely well done, and one could guess that it was done by the same craftsman.

The cracks in the pegbox, alongside the neck graft, are supported on the inside by the neck graft itself and are perfectly stable.

All the work done on this violin over the ages have been executed with unusual care, showing appreciation for what has clearly been perceived throughout as being an very good instrument. The scroll, however, doesn't really convince as being original to this violin - the style seems later and it also has less wear on it than one would expect. There is something about it reminiscent of Hill's scrolls of the late 19th century, which, along with the ebony crown on the button and the very high quality of workmanship, raises the question whether this violin may have been restored by the Hill workshop. The pegholes, though, have been rebushed, which indicates that this violin worked a lot and was in constant use - again a sign of appreciation by players.

The tone is excellent! Big, with projection, yet warm and mature and noble. There is none of the tubbiness often associated with higher arched violins from the baroque era. This would be a superb chamber instrument given to solo work.

This is a worthy instrument from every perspective, and would convert superbly to a baroque violin. It would be really nice to know its origin for certain. If anyone could contribute to establishing its origin, it would be most welcome.


Dimensions :
  Length of back: 35.8 cm; Upper bout: 16.8 cm; Middle bout: 10.9 cm; Lower bout: 20.7 cm

Condition :
  Very good condition. No repairs to the back or sides. Repairs to the top have been professionally carried out, all cracks are cleated. The top has been doubled all the way around. A very thin wedge is under the fingerboard - g-string side, to correct fingerboard slant and angle. Lower left corner on the top is damaged, but can be repaired.

Provenance :
  Withheld. This violin has been in one family for more than a hundred years.

Price : P.O.A.


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