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Musical Instruments > Violins

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Violin made by Kitty Smith, 1955
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String quartet (two violins, viola and cello) made by Kitty Smith

Images: 01 02

Object statement
Violin, with double violin case and components, varnished wood, made by Kitty Denereaz Smith, Lindfield, New South Wales, Australia, 1955
  • The shape of a violin means that it can support a pressure of 60 pounds (27.22 kilos) at the bridge when the strings are tuned to concert pitch and even more when a musician hits the strings with the bow.
  • Kitty Smith's violins have 72 parts joined only glue.
See another object with talking points
Kitty Smith made this violin in her father's (A E Smith), home workshop in Lindfield, New South Wales in 1955.
Kitty Smith (1912-2005) grew up in an environment of violin making and playing; she studied at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and her father was Arthur Edward Smith MBE (1880-1976), Australia's best known and most respected violin maker. In her younger years Kitty spent much of her spare time in her father's workshop, and in 1933 she made her first violin, modelled on the 'Maurin' Stradivarius of 1718. She soon made the decision to pursue violin making rather than playing, as a career.

In 1938 she went to Rabaul, New Guinea to marry. It was there that she made her first viola. Upon returning to Australia in 1941 she worked in her father's business in Sydney, repairing violins, making strings during the war, and working on her own instruments at home when time permitted. AE Smith & Co was Australia's leading violin house until it closed in 1972; through her work there Kitty had the opportunity to examine and repair superb Cremonese instruments belonging to the leading soloists of the day such as Fritz Kreisler, Yehudi Menuhin and Isaac Stern. Kitty Smith continued to make violins into her 80s.

The Museum's instruments were made in Sydney between 1955 and 1962. As a working woman with family responsibilities, Kitty Smith's output was steady but not prolific, averaging one instrument a year, totalling some 55 violins, five or six violas and five cellos. Her instruments are labelled Kitsmith, a signature she adopted early in her career as it could be interpreted as either male or female - an important consideration in such a male dominated profession. Like her father, Kitty Smith has always used European timbers: maple for the back, ribs and neck and head and Swiss or Italian pine for the belly. Although she generally used Cremonese instruments as her models, each of her instruments is individual and the result of experimentation and research. For instance, Kitty and her father experimented with varnishes and evolved their own formulae.

Belinda Nemec,
Curator of Music, 1994.

The vendor, Dr Frank Chapman purchased the instrument from Kitty Smith in about 1984.

 This text content licensed under CC BY-NC.

Description
Violin, with double violin case and components, varnished wood, made by Kitty Denereaz Smith, Lindfield, New South Wales, Australia, 1955.

(Part 1) Violin; one-piece back of medium curl sloping downwards from right to left, made of a banded, broad grain wood, also used for the sides, neck and hand carved scroll. Table of fine grain, [ebony] fingerboard, tailpiece, button and tuning pegs of dark coloured, fine grain wood. Finished in brownish yellow varnish. The inside back is stamped with the maker's name and date, and signed "Kitty Denereaz Smith".

(Part 2D) Violin case, double, olive green fabric, trimmed with leather and lined with green velvet.

(Parts 3-6) Violin components, chin rest, fine tuners (2), strings (4), removed from instrument by conservation (December 1994).

Made: Smith, Kitty; ; 1955

: Smith, Kitty; Lindfield, New South Wales


Owned: Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences; Sydney

Owned: Smith, Kitty;

: Chapman, Frank;
Marks
Inside back of violin, stamped: "KitSmith/ Sydney/ Faciebat Anno 1955/ KS" and signed in ink: "Kitty Denereaz Smith"; Stamped on the bridge: "KITSMITH".
94/230/1
Production date
1955
Height
140 mm
Width
310 mm

 This text content licensed under CC BY-SA.
Acquisition credit line
Purchased with funds from the E.A. and V.I. Crome Bequest, 1994
Subjects
+ Violin making
+ Performing arts
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{{cite web |url=http://from.ph/140859 |title=Violin made by Kitty Smith |author=Powerhouse Museum |accessdate=2 August 2014 |publisher=Powerhouse Museum, Australia}}


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