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, 14 April 2018

Gasparo da Salò – violin maker

Founder of the Brescian school of stringed instrument craftsmen


The bust of Gasparo da Salò in Salò
The bust of Gasparo da Salò in Salò
One of Italy’s earliest violin makers, Gasparo da Salò, died on this day in 1609 in Brescia.

He developed the art of string making to a high level and his surviving instruments are still admired and revered.

Da Salò was born Gasparo Bertolotti in Salò, a resort on Lake Garda in 1542.

His father and uncle were violinists and composers and his cousin, Bernardino, was a violinist at the Este court in Ferrara and at the Gonzaga court in Mantua.

Bertolotti received a good musical education and was referred to as ‘a talented violone player’ in a 1604 document about the music at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo.

Bertolotti moved to Brescia on the death of his father and set up shop in an area where there were other instrument makers.

He became known as Gasparo da Salò and his workshop quickly became one of the most important in Europe for the production of every type of stringed instrument that was played at the time.

An example of a Gasparo violin
An example of a
Gasparo violin
His business was so successful that he was able to acquire land and property and provide financial assistance to members of his family.

It is not known whether da Salò was the first craftsman to produce a violin in its modern form. But he built violins that conform to the measurements of the modern violin and developed instruments with a powerful tone that decades later were studied by Antonio Stradivari. He built violas of different sizes as well as cellos and double basses.

About 80 of his instruments are known to have survived to the present day and are in museums. One of his most famous double basses is in the Basilica of San Marco in Venice.

After his death on 14 April 1609, Gasparo da Salò was recorded as buried at a cemetery in Brescia, but the exact location of his grave is unknown.

Travel tip:

Salò, where Gasparo Bertolotti was born, is on the western shore of Lake Garda. Mussolini formed a short-lived republic there in 1943, but the resort recovered after the World War II to become a popular tourist destination and now has a museum commemorating the resistance against Fascism.
Brescia's elegant Piazza della Loggia
Brescia's elegant Piazza della Loggia

Travel tip:

Brescia in Lombardy, where Gasparo da Salò worked and died, is of artistic and architectural importance. Brescia became a Roman colony before the birth of Christ and you can see remains from the forum, theatre and a temple. The town came under the protection of Venice in the 15th century and there is a Venetian influence in the architecture of the Piazza della Loggia, an elegant square, which has a clock tower similar to the one in Saint Mark’s square. Next to the 17th century Duomo is an older cathedral, the unusually shaped Duomo Vecchio, also known as la Rotonda.

More reading:

Antonio Stradivari - maker of the world's most valuable violins

How the Amati family helped make Cremona famous for violins

Muzio Clementi - father of the piano

Also on this day:

1488: The assassination of Girolamo Riario, papal military leader

1920: The birth of Lamberto Dalla Costa, the fighter pilot who became Italy's first Olympic bobsleigh champion



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