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Stelzner System Viola
Made in the Richard Weichold/August Paulus Workshop
Dresden, Saxony, April 1893

Portrait view

The unusual design of Stelzner System instruments was patented in 1891 by Dr. Alfred Stelzner (29 November 1852-14 July 1906) of Wiesbaden (German patent, class 51, number 69012; U.S. patent 492,948, March 7, 1893), based on the premise that an outline designed with parabolic and elliptical geometry would sound better than one designed with traditional, circle-based violin geometry. Consequently, the ribs are tapered in such a way as to be higher at the center, so that the upper rib edge forms a parabola. The top and bottom blocks are triangular with concave, parabolic sides. The f-holes are also non-standard, with leaf-shaped cutouts instead of the traditionally round or oval eyes. This increased the lengths of the soundhole wings and therefore their freedom to vibrate, which Stelzner believed was important for sound production. Stelzner’s design was applied to the violin, viola, violoncello, and double bass, as well as to two new instruments that he added to the family: the violotta (tuned an octave lower than the violin), and the cellone (tuned two octaves below the violin; or a fourth lower than the violoncello).

Note: Click on any image on this page to see an enlargement.

Front, Back, and Side Views

Front view Bass side view Treble side view Back view

NMM 14353. Viola made in Richard Weichold/August Paulus workshop, Dresden, April 1893. Stelzner System. Serial no. 101. Gift of James Christensen, North Liberty, Iowa, 2008.


Written in black ink on paper label, partially torn and effaced:  [No 101.] Dresden, April 93 / [D]r. Alfred Stelzner.

Label text 1

Label text 2

Branded on inside of back above label, the first line of text curved downward at each end:  NACH Dr ALFRED STELZNER’S / — · — / SYSTEM

Branded on inside of back near soundpost, visible through treble f-hole: PATENTIERT

Branded on lower rib near endpin, under varnish: No [to bass side of endpin] / 1 0 1 [to treble side of endpin, each number branded with separate die]

Pegbox and Scroll Views

Front view of pegbox Bass side view of pegbox Treble side view of pegbox Back view of pegbox

Side and Back Views of Neck

Bass side of neck Back of neck Treble side of neck



Head and neck:  maple: medium curl; deep scroll chamfers; pegbox with shoulders.
Fingerboard:  ebony; beveled at C-string position.
Nut:  ebony.
Pegs:  four varnished ebony.

Views of Neck Heel

Neck heel, view 1 Neck heel, view 2 Neck heel, view 3 Neck heel, view 4

Front, Back, Side, and Lower End of Body

Front of body Bass side of body Treble side of body Back of body

Lower end of body



Top:  two-piece, quarter-cut spruce: medium grain.
Back:  two-piece, quarter-cut maple: broad curl descending from center joint.
Ribs:  quarter-cut maple: medium-to-broad curl angled to right on bass side, angled to left on treble side; rib corners chamfered; lower ribs divided by purfling strip.
Edging:  scooped very close to edge, forming ridge.
Varnish:  medium red-brown; faint craquelure.
Tailpiece:  ebony; fluted face with scalloped lower edge; molded saddle carved rather than inlaid.
Tailgut:  black plastic.
Saddle:  ebony.
Endpin:  ebony.
Linings:  light-colored hardwood; wide; extend over corner blocks.
Corner blocks:  light-colored hardwood.
Top block:  spruce; triangular with concave sides.
Bottom block:  spruce; triangular with concave sides.



F-holes:  narrow; leaf-shaped eyes; rounded wings.

Corners on Front

Upper bass corner
Upper treble corner
Lower bass corner
Lower treble corner

Upper bass corner

Upper treble corner

Lower bass corner

Lower treble corner

Corners on Back

Upper treble corner
Upper bass corner
Lower treble corner
Lower bass corner

Upper treble corner

Upper bass corner

Lower treble corner

Lower bass corner

Original Case

Original case with violotta in front Original case, open

Original case, closed

Workshop label inside case Original cloth cover for viola

Original black-painted, pine case with green, wool-felt lining and brass hardware (replacement handle). Richard Weichold / Dresden printed in gold on black label adhered to inside of case lid.  Green velour viola cover with embroidered kithara in gold and white thread.



Total viola length:  655 mm
Back length:  398 mm
Stop length:  217 mm
Vibrating string length:  368 mm
Neck length (bottom of nut to ribs):  149 mm
Upper bout width:  195 mm
Center bout width:  124 mm
Lower bout width:  236 mm
Upper rib height:  32-47 mm
Center rib height:  47-49 mm
Lower rib height:  40-49 mm

  Click arrow to continue Cutler Gallery Tour

Go to Cutler Gallery Tour Index

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Go to Checklist of Stelzner System Bowed Stringed Instruments

Go to Dr. Alfred Stelzner: Pioneer in Violin Acoustics," by James Christensen

Go to James Christensen's Stelzner Research Archive at the NMM

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