Stradivari, the story behind the maker: Part one, the Amatisé period

Featured Musicians, History of Violin Making
25 February 4739

The years 1660 – 1690 are known as the Amatisé period of Stradivari’s making career. It is likely that alongside Andrea Guarneri and Stainer, Antonio Stradivari was under the pupilage of Nicolo Amati.

His instruments from this time portray characteristic signs of working with Amati, such as similar purfling, outline and arching. These pieces also show evidence of a high-quality varnish, highlighting the beautiful wood and delicacy of his craft. However, Stradivari still maintained an element of individuality with his making, with his scrolls stronger and less rounded than those of Amati’s.

In 1670, Stradivari began extending the black purfling in the bee stings further into the corners of the violin. By the end of 1680, with his own workshop at the centre of Cremona, his instruments had started to diverge significantly from Amati’s making style.

Now, they were bolder, more robust and had a different outline; a considerable departure from Amati’s rounded model.

Notable pieces from the Amatisé period

The Clisbee, 1669

During the early years of his making career, Stradivari may have lacked sufficient funds to be able to invest in a high quality, beautiful type of wood. Therefore, instruments from this time are not made in a wood as charming as those from later in his lutherie. Although, ‘The Clisbee’ was impeccably covered with a yellow-brown varnish.

Owned by Mrs. Clisbee, a pupil of Andreas Moser, it was also the second violin of the Joachim Quartet. In 2003, this violin was donated to the town of Cremona and is now being exhibited at Museo del Violino.

Gustav Mahler Viola, 1672

Out of the very few that have survived over the years, the ‘Gustav Mahler’ is Stradivari’s first known viola, and Amati’s influence is still fairly visible in its characteristics.

Until the year 1960, it was actually referred to as Viola 1672, before being named by Rolf Habisreutinger to signify the day of acquisition, 7th July 1960 –the centenary of Gustav Mahler’s birth.

Hellier, 1679

The second of Stradivari’s inlaid instruments, the ‘Hellier’ violin shows his abilities were not limited to carving wood. This violin shows signs Stradivari was branching out in his making style, its size more prominent than those from the same period.

The ‘Hellier’ was consigned to the Stradivari Foundation in Cremona as part of its ‘Friends of Stradivari’ project, where it was displayed at the Museo del Violino. Now, it is back with its owner in Switzerland.

Keep an eye out on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages for our next instalment in the Stradivari series.

 If you’d like to find out more about the life of Stradivari, click here to explore the second period of his life, the Long Pattern period.