The oldest surviving Italian violin

Tak­en from


The vio­lin first emerged in north­ern Italy in the ear­ly 16th cen­tu­ry espe­cial­ly from the Bres­cia area. Many archive doc­u­ments tes­ti­fy that from 1485–95 Bres­cia was the cra­dle of a mag­nif­i­cent school of string play­ers and mak­ers, all called with the title of “mae­stro” of all the dif­fer­ent sort of strings instru­ments of the Renais­sance: vio­la da gam­ba (vio­ls), vio­lone, lyra, lyrone, vio­let­ta and vio­la da braz­zo. While no instru­ments from the first decades of the cen­tu­ry sur­vive, there are sev­er­al rep­re­sen­ta­tions in paint­ings; some of the ear­ly instru­ments have only three strings and were of the vio­let­ta type.
Because doc­u­ments show that the Bres­cia school start­ed half a cen­tu­ry before Cre­mona, it is debat­ed whether the first real vio­lin was built by Andrea Amati, one of the famous luthiers, or lute-builders, in the first half of the 16th cen­tu­ry by order of the Medici fam­i­ly.
The old­est sur­viv­ing vio­lin, dat­ed inside, is the “Charles IX” by Andrea Amati, made in Cre­mona in 1564, but the label is very doubt­ful. The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art has an Amati vio­lin that may be even old­er, pos­si­bly dat­ing to 1558 but also this date is very doubt­ful. One of the most famous and cer­tain­ly the most pris­tine is the Mes­si­ah Stradi­var­ius (also known as the ‘Sal­abue’) made by Anto­nio Stradi­vari in 1716 and very lit­tle played, per­haps almost nev­er and in an as new state. It is now locat­ed in the Ash­molean Muse­um of Oxford

Amati violin
Amati Cre­mona 1564

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