Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Violin’s Secret

By John Hart, Assistant Curator of Collections

There are a few decorated violins in our collection, one is currently out on exhibit at Fenimore Art Museum, the other has sat up on a shelf, out of sight and likely out of mind, for many years. This violin, though not as nice as the Tippecanoe example on exhibition in Bits of Home, is pretty striking on its own.

On its back is a small church created using marquetry and inlaid mother-of-pearl. It is surrounded by a decorative purfling, or decorative inlay found on the edge of most violins. This purfling is doubled, which is somewhat unusual to see, and has become an extra embellishment on the violin. Though no longer complete, you can see three different types of wood used for the church, and mother-of-pearl for the windows.

I’m not certain, but I don’t think the church decoration was originally on the violin, at least not at first. There are a few repairs at the scroll area of the violin and other repairs throughout. Was this violin repaired and then someone decided to use it as a decorative piece, rather than a playable instrument? Maybe, but we’ll never really know.

Violin and Neck, 1875-1925, Maple, pine, mother-of-pearl and inlaid other inlaid wood, N0978-979.1943.

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