Two reconstructions of “archaic” violins from around 1600
Until the mid-17th century, the average violin is not a Cremonese or Brescian instrument. It is usually built closer to home by the musician himself, although more and more players start to specialize in violin and cittern construction. Some instruments are still left unvarnished and only receive a protective layer of linseed oil or egg-white. Bridge, sound post and bass bar have no fixed place yet. The use of glue is limited to a minimum. The bass bar is carved out of the mass of the top, and the neck and upper block are made from one piece of wood. The ribs are let into a groove following the back’s outline.
They display very distinctive stylistic features: the f-holes have sharp wings, large incisions and circles of equal diameter above and below, while the corners are very long, because of the construction without corner blocks. The pegs are sickle-shaped and the tailpiece is often baluster-shaped. The violin is mainly used in public places and has not yet been accepted by the nobility.
In Northern Italy before the end of the 16th century, as in music, there was a new tendency in violin making, when makers started to integrate elements from the lute into their violins. This evolution was almost exclusively embodied by Cremona and to a lesser degree by Brescia. So in a way this should be considered as a regional style that arose amidst “archaic” traditions. Slowly this “school’s” reputation grew outside Italy, and it gradually started affecting Western European lutherie. Around 1650 the “archaic” style, and later the “archaic” construction methods started disappearing.
The violin on the right is permanently exhibited in the Museum Vleeshuis in Antwerp since 2006. I finished it a few years before. The one on the left is the result of “reworking” a cheap old Saxon violin from around 1880 with “archaic” features.
"Pardessus à 5 cordes" and "quinton": same use, different shapes!
At the end of the 17th century, the "pardessus" was developed as the smallest member of the “da gamba” family to perform solo music within the reach of the violin. At the beginning of the 18th century this music became more and more popular, also in noble circles. The preservation of the viol form, the use of frets and the vertical playing position made it acceptable for gentlemen and especially ladies of the upper class who still considered the violin below their dignity.
Around 1730 a variant of the "pardessus de viole" was created in France. With only five strings, the three lowest were now tuned like a violin and the two highest maintained a quarter interval (GDAdg). The name "quinton", generally used for the violin-shaped variant, indicates the hybrid character of these instruments, which are fully interchangeable in terms of social context, playing method and repertoire.
Both these "pardessus a cinq cordes" and the violin-shaped quinton were played vertically, contained five strings and were partially tuned in fifths. In order to make the use of the left hand in this position more comfortable, given the number of strings and the usual techniques at that time, the fingerboard had to be wide enough, and the neck not too thick and not overly rounded. In addition, as with instruments of the viol family, the shoulders run even into the wider neck, which was provided with frets. The vertical violin position on the shoulder would be, to say the least, impractical for the left hand. So these are clearly members of the "da gamba" family.