At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Antonio Stradivari – violin maker

Craftsman from Cremona produced the world’s best stringed instruments


The man who produced violins worth millions, Antonio Stradivari, died at the age of 93 on this day in Cremona in 1737.

Stradivari was an ordinary man who worked as a luthier, a maker of stringed instruments, but experts now consider him to be the greatest ever in his field.
Cremona is the birthplace of the world's greatest violin maker, Antonio Stradivari.
A street violinist in Cremona,
home of Antonio Stradivari

He is believed to have produced more than 1,100 instruments, often referred to as 'Stradivarius' violins.  About 650 of them are still in existence today and in the last few years some of his violins and violas have achieved millions of pounds at auction.

The Stradivari family date back to the 12th century in Cremona and it is believed Antonio was born there in 1644.

It is thought he was apprenticed to the violin maker Nicolò Amati. The label on the oldest violin still in existence, known to have been made by Stradivari, bears the date 1666.

He had enough money to buy a house for himself and his family in Cremona by 1680. He used the attic as a workshop and kept producing better and better instruments until his reputation spread beyond Cremona.

In 1688 a Venetian banker ordered a set of instruments to present to King James II of England, though what happened to them still remains a mystery.

In the 1690s Stradivari’s style changed and he started to use a darker varnish and different methods to achieve even better results. The high quality of the instruments he produced between 1700 and 1720 have made experts call this his golden period.

Some of his instruments are still played by violinists today and many of the top orchestras have, what are now referred to as ‘Strads’, in their collections.

In 2011 a violin made by Stradivari in 1721, which had been discovered still in pristine condition, sold in London for £9.8 million, the equivalent of 14.1 million dollars.

Antonio Stradivari died on 18 December 1737 and was buried in his local church of San Domenico in Cremona.

Il Torrazzo, Cremona's famous bell tower,
at 112 metres is the tallest in Italy
Travel tip:

Cremona is famous for having the tallest bell tower in Italy, il Torrazzo, which measures more than 112 metres in height. As well as violins, Cremona is also famous for producing confectionery. Negozio Sperlari in Via Solferino specialises in the city’s famous torrone (nougat). The concoction of almonds, honey and egg whites was created in the city to mark the marriage of Bianca Maria Visconti to Francesco Sforza in 1441, when Cremona was given to the bride as part of her dowry.

Travel tip:

There is a Museo Stradivariano in Cremona in Via Ugolani Dati. The collection of items in the museum is housed in the elegant rooms of a former palace. Visitors can see how the contralto viola was constructed in accordance with the classical traditions of Cremona, view instruments commemorating Italian violin makers in the 19th and early 20th centuries and look at more than 700 relics from Stradivari’s workshop.

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