The enlargement of the original viola da gamba to convert it into a violoncello, although almost impossible to detect on the belly, can be easily spotted on the back, since the addition of 4 cm. of wood to the maple board cannot be concealed. It was also necessary to increase the length of the bottom ribs to accommodate the greater circumference of the lower bouts. This excellent work was done at the beginning of the 20th Century.
The head is a copy of an original scroll by Grancino, made by one of our restorers, Matej Sipos, who also reconstructed the rest of the viol employing Stradivarius' forms, designs and patterns for the construction of a viola da gamba preserved today in the Stradivarius Museum of Cremona. The shields on the fingerboard and tailpiece were originally destined to accommodate the family emblem of his client.
Restored today as a viola da gamba, this instrument could also serve as a violoncello. Originally it had a body length of 72 cm. In 1850 the body was enlarged to the current standard for cello of 75 cm., an incredible restoration which easily escapes the scrutinizing eye. In deciding how to restore the instrument, several factors played a role. The fact that the original length was small, that the small instrument had very widely separated f-holes (to accept a bridge with six strings, for instance), that the original head was missing (did it have six holes?), led me to believe that it could very well have been one of those innumerable Italian viols which had been converted to violoncellos in the 19th and even 20th C. As a matter of fact, all of the viols by Stradivarius have been converted to violoncelli today. Stradivari, like almost all other North Italian makers, made viols; he had seven models of six and seven string viols. For the restoration of the Grancino we used the templates from Stradivari now kept in the museum in Cremona.
Bass violas da gamba by Linarolo, Maggini, Grancino
at the exhibition in Sacile, Italy
Kunihiro Mimura with the Grancino during a concert
at the Barockmuseum Salzburg, 2007
The Italian Renaissance and Early Baroque viols in concert:
Music for Charles V and Philip II
For further readings on viols in the shape of violins, see:
Body length 753 mm Upper width 325 mm Middle width 236 mm Lower width 446 mm Rib height 107 mm String length 710 mm