Ref :   0904

A fine Italian violin labelled
Giovanni Schwarz
(1865 - 1953)

Venice, 1901
Sold with a certificate of authenticity by Claude Lebet.
Rome, March 2015

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This violin has caused some controversy locally and also in London, Rome and Cremona in which several acknowledged authorities could not reach consensus on its authorship, some feeling that it is the authentic work of Giovanni Schwarz and others feeling that it is not.

At the heart of the disagreement are two considerations: firstly, that the violin does not appear to be as old as dated on the label (1901), and secondly, that it does not follow the standard Schwarz model he used for most of his instruments and deviates from it to some extent.

As for the style and modelling of the instrument, any refuting based on the disparity between Schwarz's normal model and the style of this violin would deny Schwarz's right to copy the work on another maker (even deliberately as a commission by a client), or with his freedom to experiment with other avenues of design and expression (as did many other makers, including Stradivari) and would be a short-sighted attempt to tie him to a very narrow definition of what his instruments should look like.

A strong argument can be made that this violin is a deliberate copy of the work of Antonio Mariani (17th century), very likely made on commission. Mariani's work is largely characterized by somewhat prominent corners. The argument that this was a commissioned instrument is further supported by hand-written dedication on the label (in Italian) - 'Made for M. Lanza Anno - 1901-'.

Furthermore, the argument that the violin looks too new to have been made in 1901, denies the real possibility that this instrument was entirely unused for 110 years and therefore shows absolutely no wear anywhere. However, close scrutiny of the varnish throughout shows a very feint craquelure - natural and NOT induced - which is consistent with a natural aging in varnish over a long period. It was this that convinced Mr Lebet in Rome that this violin may well have been made in 1901, as stated in the label.

Further, the handwritten dedication on the label corresponds adequately with an example of 15 years later, reproduced in René Vannes' Dictionnaire Universel de Luthiers, 1999 edition (label 2956), to conclude that it is by the same writer (see photos).

Giovanni Schwarz (1865 - 1953) apprenticed under Eugenio Degani and this violin shows direct influence from Degani. This is most evident in the arching, which is frankly identical to two Deganis I've dealt with - being quite full, rising sharply up from the flanks, yet with prominent edgework, both in the top and back. The treatment of the corners is virtually identical to a 1899 Degani I am familiar with.

This violin has Schwarz's known label in it (photos). The internal oxidation of the wood and general aspect of the label would conform to a label from that period.

The two-piece back and ribs are of mildly flamed maple, with the neck and scroll being of more plain wood. The top is of superb Italian spruce with very narrow growth lines at the centre line widening to the flanks. The Fs are crisp with beautifully fluted wings. The purfling is supremely well-traced and the mitres simply outstanding (see photos). The varnish really deserves special mention - the texture is almost silky, not glossy but rather glowing and appears to have flexibility and also excellent transparency. The light-brown colour has a touch of red in it and compliments the materials nicely.

This violin is truly in superb condition which in all aspects can be described as mint. There are no repairs or any damage evident anywhere. It is very well-toned - focussed, rich and with projection, well-balanced and clear in high positions, notably in the high g-string positions where there is an absence wolfishness. It speaks with ease, is easy and comfortable to play and can be said to be a very good violin, fully suitable for solo performance.


Dimensions :
  Length of back: 35.8 cm

Condition :
  Mint condition. No repairs or cracks

Provenance :
  Withheld. The property of Johan Grobbelaar.

Price : 40 000 Euros (Approximately US$ 45 000, or R 710 000)
Apart from Claude Lebet's certificate of authenticity, this violin is sold with Mr Lebet's letter of evaluation dated 15 March, 2015 in Rome, setting the value at 60 000 Euros.


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