Tommy Jarrell's Violin

Description (Brief)
This violin was made by an unknown craftsman in Mittenwald, Germany around 1880. Violins in this ornamented style made in Mittenwald in the late 19th century have long been popular with country and folk musicians, who value them for their decorative inlaid edges and geometric mother-of-pearl designs on the back.
With a very flat bridge for chordal playing and machine tuning pegs for steel strings, the violin is preserved as used by Tommy Jarrell until his death in 1985. Like many country fiddlers, Tommy never cleaned or repaired the gradual elements of wear to his violin, choosing to use it as seen in the photos, believing that the wear and buildup of rosin on the varnish enhanced the musical quality of the instrument. The instrument also has two rattlesnake rattles placed inside and a string tied to the soundpost to make it easier to adjust. The original neck is quite short and shows, with the fingerboard marks, evidence of his playing style and intonation. This violin is made of a table of spruce with medium grain broadening toward the flanks, and a back of maple in two pieces with even, medium descending figure, ribs of similar maple, an original neck, pegbox and scroll of plain maple, and a dark reddish-brown varnish.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Date made
Physical Description
spruce (table material)
maple (back material)
overall: 23 5/8 in x 8 5/8 in x 3 7/16 in; 60.0075 cm x 21.9075 cm x 8.73125 cm
Place Made
Deutschland: Bayern, Mittenwald
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Music & Musical Instruments
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Musical Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
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