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PLoS One. 2009;4(1):e4245. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004245. Epub 2009 Jan 22.

Mineral preservatives in the wood of Stradivari and Guarneri.

Author information

  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA. j-nagyvary@neo.tamu.edu

Abstract

Following the futile efforts of generations to reach the high standard of excellence achieved by the luthiers in Cremona, Italy, by variations of design and plate tuning, current interest is being focused on differences in material properties. The long-standing question whether the wood of Stradivari and Guarneri were treated with wood preservative materials could be answered only by the examination of wood specimens from the precious antique instruments. In a recent communication (Nature, 2006), we reported about the degradation of the wood polymers in instruments of Stradivari and Guarneri, which could be explained only by chemical manipulations, possibly by preservatives. The aim of the current work was to identify the minerals from the small samples of the maple wood which were available to us from the antique instruments. The ashes of wood from one violin and one cello by Stradivari, two violins by Guarneri, one viola by H. Jay, one violin by Gand-Bernardel were analyzed and compared with a variety of commercial tone woods. The methods of analysis were the following: back-scattered electron imaging, X-ray fluorescence maps for individual elements, wave-length dispersive spectroscopy, energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy and quantitative microprobe analysis. All four Cremonese instruments showed the unmistakable signs of chemical treatments in the form of chemicals which are not present in natural woods, such as BaSO4, CaF2, borate, and ZrSiO4. In addition to these, there were also changes in the common wood minerals. Statistical evaluation of 12 minerals by discriminant analysis revealed: a. a difference among all four Cremona instruments, b. the difference of the Cremonese instruments from the French and English antiques, and c. only the Cremonese instruments differed from all commercial woods. These findings may provide the answer why all attempts to recreate the Stradivarius from natural wood have failed. There are many obvious implications with regard to how the green tone wood should be treated, which chould lead to changes in the practice of violin-making. This research should inspire others to analyze more antique violins for their chemical contents.

PMID:
19158950
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2621340
Free PMC Article

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