Stradivari Varnish - Brandmair/Greiner

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The Authors

Brigitte Brandmair, Conservation scientist, stands behind the theoretical scientific side of the old Cremonese varnish.
Peter Stefan Greiner, Luthier, brought guidance; applied knowledge in the application and use of varnish to the project.

The authors form a unique collaboration between scientist and luthier, for the benefit of the field and provide previously unknown findings about the Stradivari varnish.

Stradivari Varnish: Scientific Analysis of his Finishing Technique on Selected Instruments
This outstanding project was realised by Brigitte Brandmair and Peter-Stefan Greiner. It was greatly supported by violin dealers and experts, directors and curators of various instrument collections, private instrument owners as well as participating scientific institutions.

The primary goal of the project is to research and understand the surface qualities of varnish seen under Day- and UV-light. The investigation was based on a careful and thorough analysis of the previous published scientific literature and cultural historic aspects. Scientific standards regarding UV-light photography where set and applied, leading to reproducible scientific environments. Only under such conditions can a layer profile of the varnish be extracted in a comparable non invasive manner, thus leading to important conclusions of the actual work techniques. This non invasive approach also includes the use of microscopic analysis, which leads to even further insights regarding pigments and substances that have been applied. The book is arranged in three sections. The research results of Brandmair and Greiner are presented in this book in the articles “The Build-up of Layers in Stradivari’s Varnish” by Stefan-Peter Greiner (41 pages) and “Foundations of Classical Cremonese Violin Varnishes” by Brigitte Brandmair (91 pages). The third section presents a pictures circle of 219 pages. Displayed are twenty-one outstanding instruments expertly photographed by the photographer Jan Röhrmann. They are presented in chronological order to provide a representative cross-section of Antonio Stradivari's work, whereas the first instrument is a Nicolò Amati and the last one a Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù. The instruments are documented in daylight and UV radiation from life size till magnifications up to 1000x. Each instrument is preceded by a short introductory description written by experts as Eric Blot (Cremona), Dr Rudolf Hopfner (Vienna), John Dilworth, David Rattray (London) and Dott. Gabriele Rossi-Rognoni (Florence). Many of these instruments have not been documented in the past decades and under no circumstances in this quality. All texts are written in English and German. The book in sum is a unique documentation of scientific varnish research. It will provide, especially due to its vividness, diligence and clear structured presentation, great inspiration and will become an essential accompanist of your daily work.

Hardcover, 387 pp, 42.9 x 30.5cm
The text is English and German

Project photographer Jan Röhrmann shot all the life size Day- and UV-light pictures, as well as the detail shots up to 5 x magnification. He is using a high – resolution digital back with 45 Mio pixels on a 3.7 by 4.9 cm chip. The raw image was then fed into a special conversion software to account for a real life colour reproduction. Finally a “proof” was generated for each image to guarantee the true colours in the printed book.

Photo Section
The book contains day- and UV-light life size pictures of 21 of the best preserved Stradivaris of all periods from famous European collections. Many of these instruments have not been documented in the past decades and under no circumstances by these means.

Scientific Overview

  • Close-ups for the demonstration of stratigraphic layering system (magnification up to 5x)
  • Microscopic mapping of typical varnish phenomena and of cross-sections of historical data (magnification up to 1000x)
  • Analysis of organic an inorganic components determined by optical and chemical methods

Cultural Overview

  • Historical studies of Cremonese varnish
  • Investigation of wear patters (ablation profiles) on stringed instruments
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List of Instruments: publication Stradivari Varnish

1649 Nicolò Amati “Alard” Ashmolean Museum Oxford
1666 Antonio Stradivari “Back” RAM London
1672 Antonio Stradivari “Mahler” (va) Habisreutinger-Stiftung Switzerland
1679 Antonio Stradivari “Hellier” KHM Vienna
1683 Antonio Stradivari “Cipriani Potter” Ashmolean Museum Oxford
1688 Antonio Stradivari “Hill-Guitar” Ashmolean Museum Oxford
1690 Antonio Stradivari “Medici” (va) Accademia della Galleria di Firenze
1690 Antonio Stradivari “Medici” (vc) Accademia della Galleria di Firenze
1692 Antonio Stradivari “Longuet” CdlM Paris
1696 Antonio Stradivari “Archinto” (va) RAM London
1704 Antonio Stradivari “Sleeping Beauty”LB Baden-Württemberg
1709 Antonio Stradivari “Viotti” RAM London
1714 Antonio Stradivari “Smith Quersin” OENB Vienna
1716 Antonio Stradivari “Medici" Accademia della Galleria di Firenze
1716 Antonio Stradivari “Messiah” Ashmolean Museum Oxford
1717 Antonio Stradivari “Suggia” (vc)Habisreutinger-Stiftung Switzerland
1720 Antonio Stradivari “Kux Castelbarco” (va) RAM London
1724 Antonio Stradivari “Sarasate” CdlM Paris
1734 Antonio Stradivari “Gibson” (va) Habisreutinger-Stiftung Switzerland
1734 Antonio Stradivari “Habeneck” RAM London
1742 Guarneri del Gesù “Alard” CdlM Paris