Guarnerius, Giuseppe Antonio


(Called Joseph del Gesu)

Was one of a celebrated family of violin-makers of Cremona. His uncle, Andreas or Andrea, was a pupil of Nicolo Amati and a fellow workman of Stradivarius; his violins bearing dates from 1650 to 1695. Andrea's sons, Peter and Joseph, and his grandson Peter, all made very good instruments, each one's work having some different individuality; but in the case of Giuseppe the excellence and the originality of his workmanship amounted to genius, which is scarcely surpassed by that of the renowned Stradivarius, of whom it has been stated that Giuseppe was a pupil. The latter's violins, however, are unlike the Stradivarius model, and show the influence of an earlier worker, Caspar di Salp. The great variety of shape and size in the instruments of Giuseppe Antonio, indicates that he made many experiments in order to obtain the depth of tone, which was his main object, rather than elegance of form; andjn this power and richness of tone his instruments excel. The sobriquet del Gesu is given him from the appearance of the letters I. H. S. on his labels. Many of his instruments are marked with a sap stain along the belly, parallel with the finger-board, and these bellies are thought to have been made from one huge piece of pine of especial acoustic value. The best of his violins are attributed to a middle period in his life, and show the most finished workmanship, although different ones were so unlike that their appearance or modeling is in no way a sign of their origin; and those ascribed to his later period are decidedly inferior and may or may not have been his work. So far as known he made no violoncellos. Paganini used one of Giuseppe's instruments, and restored them to favor, whereas prior to his career the softer toned Strads and Amatis had been more widely used by violinists. Martin Roeder states that Joachim was presented with a Guarnerius worth over six thousand dollars, and that Sarasate used one worth fifteen thousand dollars.