nathaniel cross

This illustration of a violin by Nathaniel Cross was published in The Strad, August 1987. The following text is extracted from the article accompanying the photograph:

Born in 1689, when the only possible social mobility was downward, and humility and hard work were the only defence against the gutter and the poor house, English maker Nathaniel Cross seems to have been essentially a craftsman, without pretensions to art or recognition. His work is plain and honest, but not without virtues of strength and purpose.

In obviously straightened circumstances he had no time for superfluous decoration, and many of his instruments lack purfling. One of the distinguishing features of this type of work in England is that the purfling lines are always painted on, whereas equivalent Milanese work always has the representation of purfling scratched into the wood.

What is always dependable is the work of the interior. Cross used the distinctive English 'buttress' shaped linings, which are low but stout, with the top chamfered to a steep angle, rather than the tapering angle of Italians. The blocks are generously sized and the whole structure is strong and dependable, more of a farm wagon than a ceremonial coach.

He invariably used cheap, plain wood. The modelling, however, is fine, especially in the violin shown here. A free copy of the Stainer model in outline, arching and 'f's, it is not exaggerated or mannered as German or Italian followers tend to be, and the free sweep of the 'f's and the fine disciplined shaping of the edge and corners is admirable in all respects.