Images from The Rawlins
Bass Viola da Gamba, Antonio Stradivari Workshop, Cremona, ca. 1730
Converted into a Violoncello by Jos. Wagner, 1831
Click on any image below to see an enlargement
NMM 10845. Bass viola da gamba, Antonio Stradivari Workshop, Cremona, ca. 1730. Converted into a violoncello with an adjustable neck by Jos. Wagner, 1831. Karl and Helen Fruh Estate, 2005.
Listen to an excerpt from the live Stradivari viol/cello demonstration by Joshua Koestenbaum (2005) at the NMM conference, The Secrets, Lives, and Violins of the Great Cremona Makers 1505-1744.
A rare viola da gamba built probably about 1730 in the workshop of Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737)—perhaps by one of his sons, probably Francesco (1671-1743)—and converted in 1831 into a cello with an adjustable neck by Jos. Wagner—was given to the NMM in 2005.
The back, which is flat, is of two pieces of quarter-cut maple with faint flames of medium width that descend slightly from the center joint. The top is of two pieces of spruce with grains of medium/wide grain, with the original shape of the viola da gamba still outlined with purfling in the upper bouts.
Viola da Gamba Contour and Signs of Alteration
The original contour of the viola da gamba can be clearly seen on the upper front bouts. The alteration at the top of the back was done when the viol was converted into a flat-backed cello.
Identified as a Strad at a London auction in the early '80s by Charles Beare of John & Arthur Beare Ltd., prominent violin dealers in London, and Robert Bein of Bein & Fushi, Inc., prominent violin dealers in Chicago, the instrument was purchased by Karl Fruh, an influential cellist and teacher in Chicago. He later retired and moved to Austin, Texas, with his wife, Helen, where he died in 1999.
Donated to the NMM during the summer of 2005 by the Karl and Helen Fruh Estate, the cello was brought by car from Austin to Vermillion by André P. Larson, NMM Director, and his wife, Kay, just in time to be seen and heard played by Joshua Koestenbaum from the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, as part of the international conference that the NMM hosted to celebrate the 500th birthday of Andrea Amati, The Secrets, Lives, and Violins of the Great Cremona Makers 1505-1744, July 1-4, 2005.
Pegbox and Scroll Views
The head and adjustable neck with the nickel-silver screw mechanism (see below) are later replacements, as are the quarter-cut maple ribs.
Neck Heel and Adjustment Screw
An adjustment screw in the heel of the neck, turned with a special wrench, is similar to the one that Johann Stauffer in Vienna devised early in the 19th century to adjust guitar necks.
The cello is on exhibit with the NMM's other rare Stradivari instruments in the Rawlins Gallery on the NMM's first floor: the Harrison violin of 1693, one of a handful of Strad violins that survive with their original necks; the Cutler-Challen mandolin, one of but two Strad mandolins known to survive (the only one that can be seen in a museum setting); the Rawlins guitar, one of only two Strad guitars that can be seen in a museum setting (the other being at the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University in England); and, one of only two bows attributed to the Stradivari workshop, a highly decorated example owned in the 18th century by King Charles IV of Spain. A permanent grouping of five such diverse Stradivari instruments and bows can be seen nowhere else.
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Technical Drawing of the Stradivari Viola da Gamba/Violoncello Available from Gift Shop
Checklist of Bowed
Stringed Instruments Made Before 1800
Checklist of 16th- and 17th-Century
National Music Museum
The University of South Dakota
414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57069