Stradivari, Antonio

1649 or 1650-1737


Generally considered the greatest of the Cremona violin-makers. Was contemporary with Andrea Guarneri, and apprenticed to the great Nicolo Amati. It is not certain whether he was a native of Cremona. When only about eighteen he was married to a widow, Francesca Capra, several years his senior. Of their six children the second son, Francesco and the youngest child, Omobono, followed their father's profession but without his distinguished success. His wife died in 1698 and about a year after he married Antpnia Zambelli, who bore him five children. He survived his second wife by about nine months, dying December 18, 1737. He was buried in the Basilica of San Domenico, in the Chapel of the Rosary. The Basilica of San Domenicp has been  demolished, but Stradivari's stone is still preserved in the vault of the Palazzo dei Tribunali. It is probable that he began his career as a violin-maker, about 1667, as an apprentice in the workshop of Nicolo Amati, and many violins of 1670 to 1679 bearing the Amati label are unmistakably the work of his hands. Amati retired from business about 1679, and it is thought that Stradivari set up his workshop about this time. From 1680 to 1698, his second period, marks the development of his skill. In 1684 we find among his customers the Grand Duke of Florence, and the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and in 1687, he made a concerto, or set of instruments, for the King of Spain, of which one oi the violins later came into possession of Ole Bull. About 1690 he entered into another period of work in which he began to make instruments of totally different construction which were known as the long Strads. Some of these instruments were actually longer than his other models, while in others the effect of length was gotten by narrowing the instrument. In other ways, too, he employed innovations; he built his instruments on different systems of curves and in some instances changed the thicknesses of his woods. From 1690 to about 1698 may be considered his experimental period, during which time he proved the principles by which he built the instruments of his third and best period. The violins which he built from about 1700 to 1728 are all wonderful in construction, and supremely beautiful. The curves upon which he built the body of the instruments were worked out elaborately and those in the scroll were finely executed. In the beautiful wood that he used, in the color and quality of his soft, mellow varnish, the carving of the head, even in fittings and the ornaments of the case, everything he turned out was a marvel of skill and care. Most of these are instruments of the violin family, violins, violoncellos, violas, etc.; but he made instruments of other kinds, some beautiful mandolins and guitars, even kits and citherns. Many of these are still in existence, some in museums and private collections and some in use by great musitians. Owing to the excellence of material and workmanship and the care which most of these instruments have received they are usually in excellent condition. The violin is soft and full in tone and in the best instruments capable of an infinite variety of shading. This, together with their lasting qualities, makes Stradivari violins in great demand today, and they command prices from five hundred to five thousand dollars, and even more for especially fine specimens.