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Thread: Introducing Michele Vinaccia

  1. #1

    Default Introducing Michele Vinaccia

    EBay mandolin ads seem an inexhaustible fount of levity and good cheer when it comes to instrument maker attributions, particularly for those of "foreign" provenance.
    Here's one example where we can find "Michele Vinaccia" in the listing title:
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Ita...4AAOSwushdvxjE

    Further in the text, the seller introduces yet another hitherto unknown member of the Vinaccia clan when he writes "Michele Maratea was a student of Allievo Di Vinaccia Napoli".

    I know that such "foreign" labels and names are difficult for many native English speakers. I suppose we must not judge harshly such casual sellers of occasional "foreign" instruments, when we consider the fact that even some professional mandolin restorers of Anglo background have a hard time pronouncing mandolin related household names such as Ceccherini or De Meglio. What's in a name, anyway ? Generally speaking, most of us do not care much about those linguistic intricacies as long as there is no communication ambiguity.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Introducing Michele Vinaccia

    Well, Michele Maratea's mandolin does have a fair few features that look like a Vinaccia instrument and as a former student this seems completely reasonable. One assumes that it was okay for students to advertise their graduation from the Vinaccia workshops. I don't know if he had a long career or not and one would assume that if he did and was famous in his own right, he could cease advertising his status as a Vinaccia graduate. Meanwhile, eBay sellers continue to garble the facts- which may be accidental or it may be deliberate as is more often the reality.

    I see there was a thread on him in the past: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...aratea-e-Filgi
    Last edited by NickR; Nov-05-2019 at 6:48am.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Introducing Michele Vinaccia

    Based on what I have seen and owned, that particular Maratea instrument bears hardly any resemblance to the Vinaccia mandolins of the period, even when looking at their simplest models. The Maratea has some decidedly low budget features such as the soundhole rosette pearl inlay and the pickguard. Then, there is that awkward looking headstock finial which is incompatible with anything I've seen with the Vinaccia name on it. Then, the issue of fret marker shapes, etc, etc.
    Now, I must say I've never studied better Maratea mandolins, thus they might indeed show a better kinship with the Vinaccia mandolin design and styling. Some other folks here should be better qualified to talk about that than I am.
    Last edited by Peter K; Nov-05-2019 at 7:11am.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Introducing Michele Vinaccia

    Well, it shows some similarities to my Vinaccia- the top edge of the headstock and the pin tailpiece for starters and yes, it is an inexpensive model- mine is certainly better.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Introducing Michele Vinaccia

    This is an excerpt from a post by PiccoloPrincipe from that earlier thread that I posted above regarding Michele Maratea.


    "Maratea was an awesome luthier and his work is very well respected (As are others here in Italy which do not seem to be abroad). One of the last/few genuine old school workshops and luthiers working to make the finest instruments genuinely unlike the greedy and vulgar luthiers from Catania building largely junk for export and profit.

    If you are looking for the Vinaccia sound, quality, and methodology, Maratea is a bit easier to find and also less expensive.

    It is a shame the prices they fetch as a result of ignorance and laws of economics at the moment, but this will change."

  6. #6
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Introducing Michele Vinaccia

    There seems to have been at least a couple other Marateas claiming to have studied with the famous "Allievo" di Vinaccia: Domenico and Raffaele.

    Perhaps there was a Figli Maratea, too. Or maybe he's referring to his sons on the label....
    Michele M apparently worked with the DeMeglio system of building as well.

    The wide stylistic and quality range of his instruments is the type of thing that has sometimes made us wonder around here as to whether someone was actually the maker of the instruments or perhaps just the labeler and seller despite whatever claims might be made on a label.

    Or perhaps Maratea did some of both. There certainly are some very nice mandolins under his many different style labels he used over the years.

    Dubious marketing ploys, though, didn't begin with the advent of Ebay.

    Lastly, a few modest Vinaccias with a least a superficial resemblance to the modest Maratea. Two from the late 1890s with the broken pediment headstock w finial and one from 1909 with the more familiar "open book" headstock.

    Mick
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  7. #7

    Default Re: Introducing Michele Vinaccia

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post

    The wide stylistic and quality range of his instruments is the type of thing that has sometimes made us wonder around here as to whether someone was actually the maker of the instruments or perhaps just the labeler and seller despite whatever claims might be made on a label.

    Mick
    Right on. Perhaps that situation was not as prevalent in Italy as it was in the States, but some oddities do exist with old time makers, labelers and sellers of mandolini bombati in my old country. My best example for that sort of a thing was an upper tier Stridente mandolin which Tavy and I came across on eBay UK a few years ago, which I would have bet my (measly) pension cheque it was made by bro's Vinaccia, if it was not for a Stridente label inside. Moreover, the sound that thing emanated was beautiful. In the end, we really can not say with certainty who actually crafted that mandolin, whatever the label might be saying.

  8. #8
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Introducing Michele Vinaccia

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter K View Post
    Right on. Perhaps that situation was not as prevalent in Italy as it was in the States......
    In my files, I have labels / examples from 500+ Italian mandolin makers. Jim Garber likely has fifty or so more. We're yet to compile our spreadsheets.

    What percentage of these were labelers, jobbers, wholesalers, vanity labels, etc? My guess is: lots and that the practice was pretty widespread.

    Just like wines getting shipped up from Sicily to the mainland and being relabeled, no doubt many mandolins moved northward from Catania to be sold as Neapolitan.

    Stridente seems a likely candidate as you suggest. I've owned a few which were decidedly MOR and seen numerous ones for sale which looked less than MOR and some that were quite sumptuous and apparently sounded just so from your experience.

    We've come to expect more stylistic, if not quality, consistency from the labels we've grown to trust: Vinaccia, DeMeglio, Ceccherini, Calace, Embergher, Kasermann, Kisslinger, Cristafaro. Even Puglisi--with all the wildly stylistic swings and strange copyings--are pretty identifiable as Puglisi.

    Ferrari, DeMureda, Lanfranco? Not quite so sure. Luigi D'Amore? Such a great name.....

    None of this suggests that many of these aren't delightful mandolins whatever their provenance. Particularly if the frets / intonation isn't way off. (That's a big if.)

    Same with the MOR lines from Lyon and Healy. The basic Washburns and American Conservatory mandolins are sound, well made and basically good sounding instruments. Nothing to sniff at. Unless one is the type who enjoys sniffing at things.

    Mick
    Ever tried, ever failed? No matter. Try again, fail again. Fail better.--Samuel Beckett
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  9. #9

    Default Re: Introducing Michele Vinaccia

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post

    We've come to expect more stylistic, if not quality, consistency from the labels we've grown to trust: Vinaccia, DeMeglio, Ceccherini, Calace, Embergher, Kasermann, Kisslinger, Cristafaro. Even Puglisi--with all the wildly stylistic swings and strange copyings--are pretty identifiable as Puglisi.

    Ferrari, DeMureda, Lanfranco? Not quite so sure. Luigi D'Amore? Such a great name.....

    Mick
    Yes, but let us not forget Angara & D'Isanto …...style-wise their mandolins seem to be all over the map. I am having doubts as to whether those two ex Vinaccia apprentices ever made two identical mandolins. Just the other day I saw somewhere a picture of a De Meglio clone (kind of) with an Angara & D'Isanto label.

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