The top, as the name suggests, is the upper part or “face” of a stringed instrument. It is connected to the back by means of ribs and has the same curved shape as the back. Unlike the back, which is one intact piece (or two halves that form an intact whole), the top has two cut-outs: the f-shaped sound holes. In European violin making, spruce is usually the preferred wood for the top. Its table, i.e. the arch of the curvature, is extremely important for the sound of the instrument, and the contours of the top are a signature characteristic of many masters or schools.
This beautifully backlit picture shows the top of a violin; Weimar luthier Jean Severin kindly allowed us to use this photo. It is a truly impressive sight to see how finely crafted the top of a violin is ― light even shines through it! The thick dark vertical line is of course the bass bar.