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Tommy Jarrell's Violin

Physical Description:
spruce (table material)
maple (back material)
Object Name:
violin
Place Made:
Deutschland: Bayern, Mittenwald
Date made:
1878-1882
Subject:
Music & Musical Instruments
Violins
ID Number:
1988.0426.01
Accession number:
1988.0426
Catalog number:
1988.0426.01
Description (Brief):
This violin was made by an unknown craftsman in Mittenwald, Germany around 1880. Violins in this ornamented style made in Mittenwald in the late 19th century have long been popular with country and folk musicians, who value them for their decorative inlaid edges and geometric mother-of-pearl designs on the back.
With a very flat bridge for chordal playing and machine tuning pegs for steel strings, the violin is preserved as used by Tommy Jarrell until his death in 1985. Like many country fiddlers, Tommy never cleaned or repaired the gradual elements of wear to his violin, choosing to use it as seen in the photos, believing that the wear and buildup of rosin on the varnish enhanced the musical quality of the instrument. The instrument also has two rattlesnake rattles placed inside and a string tied to the soundpost to make it easier to adjust. The original neck is quite short and shows, with the fingerboard marks, evidence of his playing style and intonation. This violin is made of a table of spruce with medium grain broadening toward the flanks, and a back of maple in two pieces with even, medium descending figure, ribs of similar maple, an original neck, pegbox and scroll of plain maple, and a dark reddish-brown varnish.
Description:
This violin was made by an unknown craftsman in Mittenwald, Germany. Mittenwald violins in this ornamented style have been popular with American country and folk musicians like Appalachian fiddler Tommy Jarrell. The instruments are prized for their decorative inlaid edges and geometric pearl designs on the back. According to the firm of J. Howard Foote, a retail outlet in New York during the 1880s, such violins "are from excellent German makers, very well made, good tone and elegant finish." Their price was $72.00 per dozen.
Location:
Currently not on view
See more items in:
Culture and the Arts: Musical Instruments
Violins
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
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