Showing posts with label 1596. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1596. Show all posts

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.

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.

More reading:


1 November 2016

Pietro da Cortona – painter and architect

Outstanding exponent of Baroque style

Pietro da Cortona: a self-portrait
Pietro da Cortona: a self-portrait
Artist Pietro da Cortona was born Pietro Berrettini on this day in 1596 in Cortona in Tuscany.

Widely known by the name of his birthplace, Cortona became the leading Italian Baroque painter of his time and contributed to the emergence of Baroque architecture in Rome.

Having been born into a family of artisans and masons, Cortona went to Florence to train as a painter before moving to Rome, where he was involved in painting frescoes at the Palazzo Mattei by 1622.

His talent was recognised and he was encouraged by prominent people in Rome at the time. He was commissioned to paint a fresco in the church of Santa Bibiana that was being renovated under the direction of Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1624.

Then, in 1633, Pope Urban VIII commissioned Cortona to paint a large fresco on the ceiling of the Grand Salon at Palazzo Barberini, his family’s palace. Cortona’s huge Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power marked a watershed in Baroque painting as he created an illusion of an open, airy architectural framework against which figures were situated, creating spatial extension through the medium of paint.

Cortona's masterpiece: the ceiling of the Palazzo Barberini
Cortona's masterpiece: the ceiling
of the Palazzo Barberini
Cortona was commissioned in 1637 by Grand Duke Ferdinand II dè Medici to paint a series of frescoes representing the four ages of man in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. He returned there in 1640 to paint the ceilings of a suite of apartments in the palace that were named after the planets.

Cortona trained a number of artists to disseminate his grand manner style, which had been influenced by his interest in antique sculpture and the work of Raphael.

Towards the end of his life, Cortona spent his time involved in architectural projects, such as the design of the church of Santi Luca e Martina in Rome and the design and decoration of the Villa Pigneto just outside the city.

Cortona died in 1669 at the age of 72 in Rome.

The Via Janelli in Cortona: reputed to be one of the oldest streets in Italy
The Via Janelli in Cortona: reputed to be
one of the oldest streets in Italy
Travel tip:

Cortona, the birthplace of Pietro da Cortona, was founded by the Etruscans and is one of the oldest cities in Tuscany. Powerful during the medieval period it was defeated by Naples in 1409 and then sold to Florence. The medieval houses that still stand in Via Janelli are some of the oldest houses still surviving in Italy.

Travel tip

Palazzo Barberini, where Pietro da Cortona painted his masterpiece on the ceiling of the Grand Salon, is just off Piazza Barberini in the centre of Rome. The palace was completed in 1633 for Pope Urban VIII and the design was the work of three great architects, Carlo Maderno, Francesco Borromini and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The palace now houses part of the collection of Italy’s National Gallery of Ancient Art.

Also on this day:

The birth of sculptor Antonio Canova, creator of The Three Graces

More reading:

Cigoli - the first to paint a realistic moon

Raphael - precocious genius renowned for Vatican frescoes

Michelangelo - 'the greatest artist of all time'

(Photo of Palazzo Barberini ceiling by Livioandronico CC BY-SA 4.0)
(Photo of Via Janelli in Cortona by Geobia CC BY-SA 3.0)