A dendrochronological investigation of stringed instruments from the collection of the Cherubini Conservatory in Florence, Italy

Bernabei, M. and Bontadi, J. and Rossi Rognoni, G. (2010) A dendrochronological investigation of stringed instruments from the collection of the Cherubini Conservatory in Florence, Italy. Journal of Archaeological Science, 37 (1). pp. 192-200. ISSN 0305-4403 (print) 1095-9238 (online)

Abstract

A total of forty-nine stringed instruments of the Conservatory Cherubini collection, at the Musical Instruments Department of the Accademia Gallery in Florence, were submitted to a dendrochronological investigation in order to date them, check the validity of their attribution and to find out more about their construction characteristics. Thirty-seven instruments were successfully dated, thereby determining the terminus post quem date of manufacture. The correlation values of the statistical cross-dating tests were generally very high. The dendrochronological analyses determined which instruments had been made from wood of the same provenance and, in some cases, from the same tree trunk. The mean chronology built from the musical instrument series, named “Accademia Master Chronology”, is 558 years long and dates from 1396 to 1953AD. The interval between the youngest ring dated dendrochronologically and the given date of manufacture increased constantly in the course of the centuries, from a mean value of just over eleven years for instruments built in the eighteenth century, to nearly 74 years in the twentieth century, when the use of old wood from other artefacts became more frequent. Furthermore, in the Cherubini Collection, the average tree rings on violins are smaller than those of other stringed instruments; in fact, they increase in proportion to instrument size and are widest in cello and double bass.

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