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.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Nicolò Amati - violin maker

Grandson of Andrea Amati produced some of world's finest instruments


A portrait of Nicolò Amati by French artist Jacques-Joseph Lecurieux
A portrait of Nicolò Amati by French
artist Jacques-Joseph Lecurieux
Nicolò Amati, who is acknowledged as the greatest in the line of Amati violin makers in the 16th and 17th centuries, was born on this day in 1596 in Cremona.

The grandson of Andrea Amati, who is credited by most experts with being the inventor of the violin in its four-stringed form, Nicolò followed his father, Girolamo, and uncle, Antonio, into the family business.

Girolamo and Antonio went their separate ways in around 1590, Antonio setting up a different workshop, which was thought to specialize in lutes.

Initially, Nicolò made instruments that were very similar to those created by Girolamo but later began to add refinements of his own, the most significant of which came between 1630 and 1640 when he created the Grand Amati design.

This model, slightly wider and longer than the violins his father had produced, yielded greater power of tone than the smaller instruments and soon became sought after.

The bubonic plague outbreak that swept through Italy between 1629 and 1633 claimed the lives of both Girolamo and Nicolò's mother, Laura, and that of his main rival in violin manufacture at the time, Giovanni Paolo Maggini, from the Brescian school.

With Antonio also dead, although a few years earlier, and none of Girolamo's other sons having entered the business, Nicolò was left as one of the only active luthiers in the Cremonese tradition.

A 1662 violin made by Nicolò Amati in the Grand Amati design
A 1662 violin made by Nicolò Amati
in the Grand Amati design
He struggled in the years immediately following the plague outbreak, when Europe was gripped by famine and owning luxury violins was not a priority even for the wealthier nobleman. But gradually returned to normal and the success of the Grand Amati model created a demand Nicolò was unable to meet on his own.

As a result, he took the decision for the first time to take on assistants from outside the family and appointed a number of apprentices, including Andrea Guarneri, Giacomo Gennaro and the German Matthias Klotz, who all went on to become great violin makers in their own right.

While there is no clear documentation of his having worked in Nicolò's shop, the brilliant Antonio Stradivari was clearly a student of his style and methods, as were Francesco Ruggiero, Giovanni Battista Ruggiero and the Austrian Jacob Stainer.

Nicolò's son, Girolamo, often known by his Latinized name Hieronymous II, continued in the family line, although without the same level of success as his forebears.

Thomas Bowes still plays a 1659 Nicolò Amati violin
Thomas Bowes still plays a
1659 Nicolò Amati violin
As well as producing a sweet, mellow tone, Nicolò's violins were characterized by their elegance and quality craftsmanship and fetch large prices when they appear in auction houses today, even if not quite in the league of the Stradivarius instruments.

In 2013, the London auctioneers Ingles and Hayday sold a 1658 violin by Nicolò Amati for £432,000 ($654,590; €508,775).

The distinguished English violinist and orchestra leader Thomas Bowes is a prominent performer who uses a Nicolò Amati violin, the one he plays being manufactured in 1659.

Travel tip:

As well as being known universally as the city of the violin, with a number of manufacturers based there today, Cremona is also associated the with composer Claudio Monteverdi.  The Baroque musician, whose 1607 work L'Orfeo is recognised as the first full-length opera, was born in Cremona and studied music at the city's 12th century Romanesque Duomo.

Hotels in Cremona by Expedia

Piazza della Loggia in the historic centre of Brescia
Piazza della Loggia in the historic centre of Brescia
Travel tip:

Brescia, a city in Lombardy situated between Lake Garda and the smaller Lago d'Iseo, is often overlooked by visitors to the area and first impressions are often coloured by the somewhat seedy nature of the streets in the immediate vicinity of the railway station.   However, the historic centre contains some of the best preserved Roman buildings in northern Italy as well as a medieval castle, two cathedrals and the beautiful Renaissance square, Piazza della Loggia.

Hotels in Brescia by Hotels.com


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