Historical violin luthiers of note

This is by no means an exhaustive list, much of the information here has come from Wikipedia's informative page on violins. For expanded information and sources click here

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The Amati Family

Active 1550–1740, Cremona

Nicolò Amati (1596-1684) by Jacques-Joseph Lecurieux (1801-1870s)

Nicolò Amati (1596-1684) by Jacques-Joseph Lecurieux (1801-1870s)

Andrea Amati (c. 1505 – c. 1578) designed and created the violin, viola and cello known as the "violin family". He standardised the basic form, shape, size, materials and method of construction. Makers from nearby Brescia experimented, such as Gasparo da Salò, Micheli, Zanetto and Pellegrino, but it was Andrea Amati in Cremona, Italy, who gave the modern violin family their definitive profile.

Andrea Amati was succeeded by his sons Antonio Amati (c. 1537–1607) and Girolamo Amati (c. 1551–1630). "The Brothers Amati", as they were known, implemented far-reaching innovations in design, including the perfection of the shape of the f-holes. They are also thought to have pioneered the modern alto format of viola, in contrast to older tenor violas, but the widespread belief that they were the first ones to do so is incorrect given that Gasparo da Salo made violas ranging from altos of 39 cm to tenors of 44.7 cm.

Nicolò Amati (December 3, 1596 – April 12, 1684) was the son of Girolamo Amati. He was the most eminent of the family. He improved the model adopted by the rest of the Amatis and produced instruments capable of yielding greater power of tone. His pattern was unusually small, but he also made a wider model now known as the "Grand Amati", which have become his most sought-after violins.

The last maker of the family was Nicolò's son, Girolamo Amati, known as Hieronymus II (February 26, 1649 – February 21, 1740).


The Guarneri Family

Active 1626–1744, Cremona

Portrait of  Del Gesù

Portrait of  Del Gesù

Andrea Guarneri (c. 1626 - 7 December 1698) was an apprentice in the workshop of Nicolo Amati from 1641 to 1646 and returned to make violins for Amati from 1650 to 1654. His early instruments are generally based on the "Grand Amati" pattern but struggled to achieve the sophistication of Amati's own instruments. 

Pietro Giovanni Guarneri(18 February 1655 - 26 March 1720), worked in Adrea's, his father, workshop from around 1670 until his marriage in 1677. He was established in Mantua by 1683, where he worked both as a musician and a violin maker. His instruments are generally finer than his father's, but are rare owing to his double profession. 

Giuseppe Giovanni Battista Guarneri (25 November 1666 - 1739 or 1740), Andrea's younger son, joined his father's business in Cremona, inheriting it in 1698. He is reckoned among the great violin makers, although he struggled to compete with Stradivari, a pervasive presence throughout his career. From around 1715 he was assisted by his sons, and probably Carlo Bergonzi.

Pietro Guarneri (14 April 1695 - 7 April 1762) Guarneri left Cremona for in 1718, eventually settling in Venice. Here he blended the Cremonese techniques of his father with Venetian. His first original labels from Venice date from 1730. His instruments are rare and as highly prized as those of his father and uncle. 

Bartolomeo Giuseppe Guarneri (del Gesù) (21 August 1698 - 17 October 1744). Giuseppe is known as del Gesù ("of Jesus") because his labels always incorporated the characters I.H.S. (iota-eta-sigma, a Greek acronym). His instruments deviated significantly from family tradition, becoming uniquely his own style, and are considered second in quality only to those of Stradivari and argued by some to be superior. 


The Stradivari Family

Active 1644–1737 in Cremona

Antonio Stradivari  (1644 – December 18, 1737 – birthdate contensted) is generally considered the most significant and greatest artisan in this field. It is estimated that Stradivari produced 1,116 instruments, 960 of which were violins. Around 650 instruments survived, including 450 to 512 violins.

Given the high number of instruments attributed to Antonio, his sons, Francesco and Omobono, as well as possibly a third son, are likely to have been working on and off in his shop. We know that having left the workshop at eighteen, Omobono made a few instruments on his own, such as the 'Blagrove' and another violin dating from 1732. On his side, Francesco made very few violins independently, such as the 1742 'Salabue' and 'Oliveira', spending his lifetime in his father's shop. This was one of the main reasons that Francesco had a large part in Antonio's will, and Omobono a lesser one. One of the major differences between Antonio and his sons' craftsmanship was the quality of the purfling on their instruments. Francesco and Omobono are referred to as being "startlingly poor" by John Dilworth in an online article on Tarisio.com about Stradivari's sons.