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The provenance of a particular instrument is a matter of great interest. Vendors, buyers and owners are all equally keen to have their instruments properly attributed – and to a name, if at all possible. This is all the more true if the violin, viola, cello or bow in question is required not just for making music, but also as an investment.


Consider the following:

A musician asked to compare the sound of two violins finds violin A very beautiful, but is less impressed with violin B. As the work of a well known 18th century Italian violin maker, however, violin B costs five times as much as violin A. Violin A dates from the same period, but has been attributed only to an Italian school and not to any particular master. If one were to present the two instruments to a different violinplayer, however, the verdict could well be the exact opposite of that described above. In other words, our judgement of sound is largely subjective and has to do with our personal acoustic ideals.


What this anecdote also shows is that no instrument can be attributed to a particular violin maker on the basis of sound alone. Which leaves us with the eye. Until just a few years ago, instrument attribution had to rely on stylistic criteria alone, meaning the choice of model, the working methods and materials used – or, to put it more simply, on each violin maker's own personal hallmark. To be able to differentiate these as accurately as possible, a violin expert naturally has to be familiar with each master's work and must be in a position to recall other examples of his authorship that have likewise been deemed genuine by other experts of renown. These days, however, we have another method at our disposal, which is to date the soft wood (conifers) used for the top – a job that is done by external dendrochronologists.


There are, of course, instances in which a cursory view of the instrument is all that is needed for accurate attribution. Many instruments are more complicated, however, whether because they are good copies or because unprofessional repair or restoration work has blurred their true origins or because certain parts of the instrument have had to be replaced at some point in its history. Attribution is made all the more difficult by the fact that these days, very few instruments come with the maker's own label. The reason for this is simple: in the past, it happened for example that the maker's label has been removed from the instrument to which it belonged and glued instead into a fake instrument, which could then be sold as an expensive original. The original instrument was furnished with a facsimile label on the assumption that the authenticity of the work itself would render a genuine label unnecessary. The fact that many old and now very valuable instruments did not bear the name of the violin makers who made them must also be borne in mind.


Roland Baumgartner can provide the following forms of expertise:

  1. oral information about the maker or provenance of a given instrument combined with an estimate of its value, taking account of how well it has been preserved
  2. written valuations for selling or insurance purposes and
  3. written certificates of authenticity


Further information on the time required for these services and prices is available upon request.


Please contact for appointments:


Gertrud M. Reuter

Geigenbau Reuter GmbH

Innere Margarethenstrasse 10

CH-4051 BaselTel +41 (0) 61 263 00 91

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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