Extract from La Pucelle
The soundholes are wonderfully elegant and beautifully finished, as one would expect. They sit with great poise and balance on the front, the edges still looking sharp enough to cut paper. Comparing these virtually perfect soundholes with those on other celebrated instruments by Stradivari brings home the great variation observable in position, inclination, widths, and even symmetry in the work as a whole. These particular soundholes on ‘La Pucelle’ are cut with a quite generous width in the arm, a feature going back to the 1680s. Amongst these and later examples there are soundhole pairs that lean inwardly at the upper hole, and later there appear soundholes cut with a slender arm, set sometimes very upright and parallel. Then, in the Golden Period and beyond, there appear mixtures of all these traits in pairs of soundholes on the same instrument.
The explanations for all this apparently random treatment lie in the techniques Stradivari used to draw out the soundholes and the obvious fact that there were more than one pair of hands at work in the atelier.
Extract from Archinto
The ‘Archinto’ predates the Golden Period. Made in 1689, it is only sixth in succession in the truly remarkable catalogue of Stradivari cellos. Although his son Francesco seems to have taken some responsibility for the later cellos, in 1689 he was only eighteen years of age, and we can be sure that the ‘Archinto’ is in every way the work of Antonio. In this early phase he followed convention and made them to the large 80cm bass form, as found in the few unaltered instruments from this period such as the ‘Medici’ of 1690 and ‘Aylesford’ of 1696.
The ‘Castelbarco’ and the ‘Spanish Court’ cello of 1700 are rare examples of an interim model used by Stradivari, with a reduced back length of 77cm, still a full centimetre longer than his later ‘B’ form. The ‘Archinto’, like the vast majority of pre-1709 Stradivari cellos, has been cut down to the modern standard of 76cm (ironically the length later determined by Stradivari himself). Nevertheless, in this case the cutting process has been carried out with some sensitivity and enormous skill, and the instrument retains most of the grandeur and brilliance of its original conception.
Extract from Tyrrell
What is more clearly evident on the ‘Tyrrell’ than any other Stradivari is the formation of the purfling mitres. The pure condition of the violin, and the high degree of workmanship, allows us to see that the ‘bee sting’ that sweeps across the corner is made by extending the outer black strip of the middle bout inlay. The outer line of the upper and lower bouts coming into the corners is shorter, and allows the single strand of black from the middle bouts to define this slender and flexible point. It is a distinctive method of working that is not imitated by any other maker.
Stradivari’s copyists have established a convention that the point is formed by the dominant line of purfling from the upper and lower bouts. In most of Stradivari’s work wear and erosion combine to obscure this observation. He also regularly used a filler paste to mask any tiny flaws. Indeed, in the ‘Messie’ the various mitre joints in the purfling corners, although unspoilt, are comparatively difficult to distinguish. Nevertheless they do hold to the Stradivari convention.