The Early Pioneers of Violin Making

Gasparo da Salo (1542-1609)

Born Gasparo Bertolotti in Salo Italy (hence the later used name) Gasparo is one of history’s earliest and best-known luthiers. He turned the crafting of bowed instruments into an artform, producing many violins, violas and even grand double basses, of which he was an expert player, that would go on to become the foundation of violin making for many years to come. Roughly 80 of his instruments still exist today, perhaps the most famous example being a double based famed for having rapidity responses similar to that of a violin which can be seen in Venice at the Basilica of San Marco.

Andrea Amati (1520 -1611)

Andrea Amati is an extremely important figure in musical history as he is credited as being the person to build violins in the form that they created in today. Amati began a dynasty of luthiers and even crafted an astounding 38 instruments for King Charles IX of France in the year 1564. Amati is also credited with creating the first four stringed violin, before his designs they only had three.

Nicola Amati (1596-1684)

Though Andrea Amati may have founded the family legacy Nicola, his grandson, is arguably the best known of the family. Nicola upgraded his grandfathers designs by pronouncing the corners and widening the body of them which helped develop a grand pattern. Though there is no documented proof some believe that he may have even trained our next pioneer, Antonio Stradivari.

Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737)

Whether or not he was trained by Nicola Amati cannot be sure but it’s clear that he was clearly influenced by his work, which he began improving on once more. By the late 17th century he’d developed a style of his own, lengthening the F holes and strengthening the necks of his works. Somewhere around 650 of his instruments still exist and are worth plenty, in 2011 a Stradivarius sold at an auction house in London for an eye watering £9.8 million.

Bartolomeo Giuseppe Guarneri (1698-1744)

Perhaps the only real rival at the time to the great Stradivari, Guarneri is from another family of master luthiers. His instruments were well known for holding an excellent tone, he used notably longer F holes that were perhaps less refined that Stradivari’s, though many to this day prefer his work. He is perhaps better known as Guarneri del Gesu (meaning “of Jesus”), this is because after 1731 all his labels include the Christogram I.H.S. along with a cross.

Carlo Bergonzi (1683-1747)

Carlo Bergonzi was another fine luthier who, like the Guarneri and Amati families hailed from Cremona, Italy. Bergonzi managed to craft instruments that were a beautiful middle point between the works of Stradivari and Guarneri. His designs included precisely cut F holes, excellent edge work and scrolls carefully carved into the wood of them. He was also known for using a stronger flat arching por his pieces. Over forty of his violins still exist today, most of which find themselves amongst private collections.