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Digital Subscriptions > The Strad > May 2019 > SHINING EXAMPLES


Identifying the varnish recipes of the early makers has been a long-held dream among researchers. Now, a team at the Arvedi Laboratory of Non-Invasive Diagnostics, headed by Marco Malagodi, has used a new form of micro-CT scanning to delve further into an instrument’s coatings than ever before
The research team at work in the Arvedi Laboratory

For the past 300 years, one of the most hotly debated subjects in lutherie circles has been the composition of varnishes used by the master makers. Until very recently it had been virtually impossible to identify the various materials, as well as the luthiers’ techniques of applying varnish to the wood surface. The methods used to characterise such complex systems normally require both non-invasive and micro-invasive analytical techniques, to identify the substances and to understand how they are stratified. Recent research based at the University of Pavia’s Arvedi Laboratory of Non-Invasive Diagnostics, housed in Cremona’s Museo del Violino, has made significant headway in this regard.

The research team utilised six large fragments of bowed stringed instruments, all of which had been removed during past restorations. Each has been attributed to an important violin maker: Gasparo da Salo (1542–1609) for which we had fragments from two instruments; Giovanni Paolo Maggini (c.1580–c.1630); Jacob Stainer (1619–83); Andrea Guarneri (1626–98); and Lorenzo Guadagnini (1685–1746). The fragments were individually scanned using non-invasive Synchrotron Radiation micro-Computed Tomography (SRT) to give a insight into their stratigraphies. These tomographic reconstructions, in conjunction with the results collected in previous micro-invasive investigations, have allowed us to outline a complete description of each multi-material coating system.

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About The Strad

The Shanghai Quartet celebrates its 35th anniversary and we hand on some yoga tips for string players. There’s an in-depth look at Stradivari’s working methods and Shostakovich’s violin works. Plus Maxim Rysanov’s Life Lessons and Rivka golani’s Sentimental Work