Violin by Andrea Amati, c. 1570 ex “Ross”

Tags: Andrea Amati | violin

Founder of the Amati school of instrument making, Andrea Amati was born around 1505 in Cremona, Italy, though the year of his birth remains in dispute. Already a well-known instrument maker by 1525, he set up his own workshop in 1538, thus beginning the family’s instrument making history. With his fame widespread by the middle of the 16th century, Andrea amassed a large fortune, and even got married twice. It has been said that King Charles IX of France (1550-1574) once ordered several instruments from Amati, including a dozen large violins, a dozen small violins, six violas, and eight cellos. Unfortunately, all of these instruments were lost during the French Revolution, and only a few have resurfaced since.

To this day, it remains a mystery of how Amati was able to create such extraordinarily fine instruments. Some historians indicated the mold being the key to the family’s craft. In addition, it was possibly the high quality varnish available in Cremona that had indirectly elevated the quality and standards of instrument making. Some have theorized that the measurement for the violin was calculated based a fixed mathematical formula, but such theory is yet to be proven. Therefore the approximate size of the instrument can only be measured based on existing instruments alone, without a fixed universal model.

This violin, made around 1570 when Andrea was in his later years, has a relatively small body and the characteristics of sweet timbre of the Amati family. Research data showed that its head was made by Antonio, Andrea’s son. Additionally, research by German and Chi Mei Culture Foundation on the identification of growth rings showed that the front of this violin is made from one piece of pinewood with its youngest growth ring dated at 1514. It is worth mentioning that every single Andrea violin is extremely precious since there are only a few of them left. In 2007, Cremona held an Andrea Amati Opera Omnia and invited several important violin collections in the world to participate. A total of 21 Andrea Amati pieces were brought together, including this Chi Mei violin. Using the piece, the American violinist Jacqueline Ross played J. S. Bach: Sonaten und Partiten für Solovioline, BWV 1001-6.




Text and images are provided by Music Digital Archives Center, National Taiwan Normal University (Digital Violin Archive Project of Chi Mei Museum)

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