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Images from The Rawlins Gallery

Tenor Viola by Andrea Guarneri, Cremona, 1664

Note: Click on any major structural area of the instrument to see a close-up of that area.


NMM 3354. Tenor viola by Andrea Guarneri, Cremona, 1664.   One of only three Cremonese instruments known to have survived in original condition (the other two are the NMM's Girolamo Amati violino piccolo, 1613, and the Medici tenor viola by Stradivari, 1690, at the Museo del Conservatorio "L. Cherubini," in Florence). It not only retains its original, uncut dimensions, but also its original scroll, pegs, neck, nut, fingerboard, saddle, button, tailpiece, original willow blocks and linings, and an unmoved spruce bass-bar. The top is cut from two large pieces of spruce with wings added at the upper and lower flanks. The back is similarly constructed from two pieces of maple with added wings to achieve its large dimensions (body length: 482mm; almost 19"). Ex colls.: N. H. Conte Agostino Canal, Venice; N. H. Conte Pietro Canal, Venice; N. H. Conte Giuseppe Canal, Venice; Laura di Tocco Canal, Milan; Andrea Bisiach, Milan. Witten-Rawlins Collection, 1984.


Historic Photos of Back Interior and Original Label


Photograph, interior of back
Label context

Label

Note: Click on images above to see larger images.


In January 1949, Andrea Bisiach (1890-1967), Milan, purchased this tenor viola from the descendants of the Counts Canal of Venice, the presumptive original owners of the instrument.  It was when the Bisiach firm subsequently repaired extensive woodworm damage to the viola that the photographs above were taken of the interior of the back.


Soundholes


Soundholes

Note: Click on image above to see a larger image of the soundholes.


Andrea Guarneri (b. Cremona, ca. 1626-d. Cremona, December 7, 1698) was the patriarch of the great Guarneri family of violin makers and the grandfather of the famous violin maker, Giuseppe Guarneri (del Gesù). It is remarkable that Andrea, as a toddler, survived the horrible plague that ravaged northern Italy between 1629-1630, killing more than 17,000 of Cremona's 37,000 inhabitants and almost half of nearby Brescia's population, including it's premier luthier, Giovanni Paolo Maggini (1580-ca. 1630).

Guarneri received his early training as a violin maker under the tutelage of Nicolo Amati (1596-1684), in whose Cremonese shop he apprenticed between 1639-1654. He then set up his own shop in Cremona and built the NMM's tenor viola when he was about 38 years old.


Pegbox and Scroll Views


Front view of pegbox Back view of pegbox

Note: Click on images above to see larger images of the pegbox.


The pegbox and scroll betray a roughness of finish often noticeable in Andrea Guarneri's instruments; the craftsman's tool marks are clearly visible in the back view.

Bass side view of pegbox Treble side view of pegbox

Note: Click on images above to see larger images of the pegbox.



Neck Heel Views


Neck heel, bass side
Neck heel, bass side
Neck heel, treble side
Neck heel, treble side
Neck heel joint underneath fingerboard

Bass Side

Bass Side/Front

Treble Side/Front

Treble Side

Underneath Fingerboard

Neck heel, back

Back

Note: Click on images or text above to see larger images of the neck heel area.


Guarneri's tenor viola suffered extensive woodworm damage over the centuries, primarily to the upper back, top block, neck, and pegbox. In an effort to consolidate these weak areas, the Bisiachs filled in damage on the back, as well as doubling the interior of the button for strength, according to William Monical, noted violin restorer and dealer from Staten Island, New York, who examined the viola prior to its inclusion in the exhibition, "Shapes of the Baroque," held in the Amsterdam Gallery of the Library & Museum of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, March 22-June 10, 1989.

In his exhibition catalog, Monical states that "worm holes in the neck and neck-foot were filled with dowels and inlays of new maple to retain as much of the original character as possible. In the course of this work, the neck was removed probably to accomplish repairs on the ribs adjacent to the neck-foot and to consolidate the top-block itself. When the neck was returned to the body, a wedge was placed between the neck-foot and rib at the top-block to increase the neck angle. This wedge, approximately 3mm thick at the table edge of the block, diminishes and becomes flush with the ribs just above the button. A second wedge was placed between the fingerboard and neck, also to increase the neck angle. Of four original nails, the upper three were returned in place. The lower nail is missing and the hole was filled on the surface of the block. A saw cut into the neck-foot was probably an error on Guarneri's part when cutting an incision for the table edge extension [see x-rays below]." (William L. Monical, Shapes of the Baroque: The Historical Development of Bowed String Instruments (The American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers, 1989), pp. 72-73. )


X-Rays of Top Block and Nails

1.  Front View


Front of neck heel
X-ray of front of neck
 

Front, upper end

X-ray of front, upper end, revealing interior top block and nails

Note: Click on images or text above to see larger images of the neck heel area.



2.  Side View


Neck heel, treble side
Neck heel, bass side
 

Neck heel, treble side

X-ray of neck heel, revealing interior top block and nails


Note: Click on images or text above to see larger images of the neck heel area.


Click here to access an index of all available digital images of this instrument.

High-Quality Image (Actual Size) of this Viola Available from Luthier's Library of Violin and Viola Photographs


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A technical drawing of this viola is available from the Gift Shop

Consult the Luthier's Library for additional measurements and photos

A postcard of this viola is available from the Gift Shop

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Most recent update: March 8, 2014

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Pegbox, front Fingerboard & top of belly Upper bouts Upper bass corner Upper treble corner Upper bouts Soundholes Tailpiece Lower bass corner Lower treble corner Lower bouts Lower bouts Pegbox, treble side Treble side of neck Treble neck heel Treble side Pegbox, bass side Bass side of neck Neck heel Bass side Bass side Tailpiece Pegbox, back Back Neck heel, back Upper treble corner Center of back Upper bass corner Lower treble corner Center of back Lower bass corner Bottom Pin Upper bouts Center of back Lower bouts