Springers museum...... Fake violins

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    Since the early days of violins there have been copies and fakes of the best makers. Stradivarius faked a violin of his teacher, Amati. Stradivarius violins are of course the most copied violins in the world. They are not necessarily fakes but just intended as copies or made in the Stradivari pattern. Others are made to deceive. In the 19th century there were hundreds of violin makers competing for custom. Some turned to ageing violins, faking old varnish, cracks repairs and of course the old label, then selling them to antique shops. Some were made in quantity. Two examples below.

  A 19th century Amaiti fake. With a convincing  ageing label:-

 Nicolaus Amatus Fecit   

In Cremona 16..

The varnish has been artificially aged by darkening in places, and crazed. The apparent cracks are just darkened score lines but closer inspection will show that they are not along the grain. Below the button on the back is a wax seal which purports to be an importing customs seal of the 18th century. It also has scored lines on the neck-peg box to imitate a neck graft.

This is an example of a fake that was made in significant numbers.


An interesting skilfully created Betts. London fake. Rather overdone with the fake cracks. The back has a false sound post crack which, genuine, surely would devalue the violin. Apart from the cracks it has the lines of a neck graft top and bottom of the neck. It looks to have had the wood cut around the top block which normally would be done to help remove the neck. The edge of the table has a line all around which would have been done of the table were to be removed. Even old wood worm lines are fake. Another convincing label inside. Despite this the violin is reasonably well made and plays with a mellow tone. Obviously by a good maker hard up and trying to sell instruments. Possibly by a pupil of Betts. e.g. Tobin , a  maker who was know to be destitute at the time of his death.  

There are thousands of violins from the 19th century imported to England from Germany with distressed varnish to give an ageing effect, often done by placing brown paper over party dried varnish and the lifting the paper so removing small patches of varnish, and with a master violin maker label such as  Amati, Stradivarius, Guanerious , Gaspar da Salo. In the first half of the 19th century there was a tax levied on imports including violins. However, violins in the white, i.e. unvarnished and without fittings, were classed as toy apparently and carried no tax. As a result  1000s were imported  from Germany for makers to finish (and improve). The suppliers then put their own labels in making perhaps a Tyrolean violin appear English. A fake of origin? Suppliers often put their own labels even today.



See also:- Hardanger Fiddles   Pochette and kit violins    Metal violins   Decorated violins   Unusual violas   Fakes  Mute violins    Early violins

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