A Rare Violin by Annibalotto Fagnola circa 1930
A lot is known about the life and works of the great Turin violin maker Annibale Fagnola, but less well-known is his apprentice and nephew. Sharing the name of his Uncle was obviously confusing so Young Anibale was affectionately re-named Annibalotto. He was born in Turin in 1910 to one of Annibale’s younger brothers Marcello. Annibalotto seemed to have had good innate craft skills and progressed quickly at his uncle’s workshop, and there were high hopes of him to further the violin-making dynasty. However, it appears that he became a violin maker more to please his father and his uncle than himself.
At the age of 18 Anibalotto already showed himself to be a good maker, and his work displayed many of the traits of the Turin School. However his output was sporadic due to his calling up at the age of 20 for three years’ military service, followed by a further year in 1935.
Little is known about Annibalotto’s life between 1936 to 1939. Following Annibale Fagnola’s death in 1939, Annibalotto and his father struggled to keep the business going but sadly were unable to do so. A combination of issues including a lack of experience, difficult times, and the impending war rendered the task too great, and the Fagnola family lutherie was brought to an end.
The violin we are offering here is most rewarding to play. It is a powerful instrument with a strong, yet silky, smooth tone, and is easy to play while still having a large array of tonal and dynamic colours.
There are plenty of the Fagnola family traits in this violin, but the Model seems to be somewhat broader across the middle bouts than the typical Fagnola design. The work is free flowing, fast and more confident than his earlier work, and some tool marks are visible (see photos). The varnish is good, not brittle, transparent, and of a handsome orange-brown colour on a bright ground (I don’t think there is any ground layer). I love the fact that it appears to have been varnished in one quick, thick, coat with no surface prep at all; just chisels, scrapers then varnish! Drips have formed in places, and there are a few burst air bubbles (see photos). It is said that Annibalotto was proud to have developed his own style of f holes, but for me these are very much in the Turin mould, with their large wings reminiscent of Guadagnini in style. The arching is fairly classical with no surprises and the bottom rib has the trademark Turin purfling strip in the joint. The scroll carries many of the features of his uncle, and looking at his templates (which one would suppose Annibalotto would have used) I may have suggestions as to why there is an almost uncomfortable irregularity about the pegbox outline:
1) The card profile templates they used were in two sections with the first coming up to, but not including the volute, and as a result the second smaller volute template could easily be misaligned, leading to the asymmetry of the “ears” of the scroll; and
2) There’s some evidence that the bevelling of the pegbox/scroll is done right at the end of the carving process unlike the Cremonese method which starts with the bevelling, this not only leaves the central spine standing higher than the outer edges, sometimes creates an ill defined profile. The central scribe line seen in his uncle’s work is present here and there appears to be a regular series of pin pricks deep in the volute – I don’t know why. The scroll has blackened edge as was the norm in Turin…
Certificate of Bernard Millant.
Liuteria Italiana volume IV by Eric Blot ISBN 88-88360-01-8
Annibale Fagnola by G. Accornero, I. Epicoco and E. Guerci Edizioni Il Salubue ISBN 88-87618-01-1
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