Stradivari, the story behind the maker: Part three, the Golden Period
From 1700 – 1725, Stradivari hit the peak of his violin making career, also known as the Golden Period. Creating instruments of a higher calibre than his previous work, it was now that he distanced himself from the long pattern violin and returned to the standard, smaller sized instrument.
Although not technically beginning until 1700, some of Stradivari’s earlier work from the 1690s mirrored the quality of those crafted in his golden years. Somewhat controversially, many of these instruments actually had their original labels amended to dates post-1700 so that they could be sold at an increased value; any instrument crafted during this time was and remains to be held in high esteem, worth millions and ever-increasing in worth.
The quality of materials used during the golden period also speaks to Stradivari’s financial gain. He was evidently much more financially stable, enabling him to invest in the finest products to craft with. Some say his rich varnish was one of his biggest kept secrets!
Stylistic changes to Stradivari’s lutherie during the Golden period
The early golden years saw Stradivari introduce long, elegant corners to his work, ones that were slightly rounder and more curved than previous instruments. By 1704, he changed the proportions of the purfling too, increasing the width of the inner white section.
In 1708, the arching became much fuller in comparison to previous instruments, although it was still flatter than other violins of the time. This arching benefited the sound greatly, allowing it to resonate more powerfully.
The years prior to 1709 were transformative years for Stradivari, leading him towards the peak of his career. By 1710, he was confident in his approach, allowing him to settle in and focus on the making itself, turning his golden period into the most productive one.
Notable pieces from the Golden period
Amongst one of the most legendary violins crafted by Stradivari, this instrument perfectly represents the golden period. Produced in 1704, it has been owned by the French maker Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, as well as London fine instrument dealers, W.E. Hill & Sons.
Notably well-preserved, the elongated corners and purfling joints are most remarkable, whilst the two-pieced back immediately catches your attention. Still magically intact after hundreds of years and various owners, today the Betts is owned by the Library Congress in Washington DC.
The Ruby, 1708
Named after its ruby-tinted varnish that is so well-preserved, the back of this instrument is a rare slab cut seen on only a few instruments. Since 1982, it has resided with its current owner, Bein & Fushi, a fine instrument dealer. However, over the years, it has also been loaned to the great violinist Phillippe Quint through the Stradivari Society.
The ‘Gibson, Huberman’, 1713
This antique violin has been stolen twice in its lifetime. After the first theft, it was soon returned to its owner. However, when it was next stolen from Israeli violinist, Bronislaw Haberman, it was not recovered until fifty years later after a deathbed confession from Julian Altman.
The violin was then sold to Norbert Brainin, who played it until Joshua Bell acquired the instrument in 2001.
Lord Dunraven, 1710
This violin has been under the ownership of Anne Sophie Mutter for over thirty years. Its far-travelling sound is strong, as well as incredibly dynamic in range.
The ‘Soil’ violin has had an array of famous owners, including Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume and Yehudi Menuhin. Today it is owned by Itzhak Perlman, who acquired the instrument in 1986.
Crafted by Stradivari during the peak of his Golden period, this violin was made out of the finest materials with impeccable workmanship. In fact, the ‘Soil’ is famously known as the best sounding instrument ever made by Antonio Stradivari.
Or to explore the making career of Stradivari in more detail, read about his last period, click here.