Andrea Amati

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Andrea Amati
Bornc. 1505
Died(1577-12-26)26 December 1577
Known forCredited with constructing the first musical instrument of the modern violin family
This violin, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, may have been part of a set made for the marriage of Philip II of Spain to Elisabeth of Valois in 1559, which would make it one of the earliest known violins in existence.

Andrea Amati was a luthier, from Cremona, Italy.[1][2] Amati is credited with making the first instruments of the violin family that are in the form we use today.[3] Several of his instruments survive to the present day, and some of them can still be played.[3][4][5] Many of the surviving instruments were among a consignment of 38 instruments delivered to Charles IX of France in 1564.[6]

Charles IX of France[edit]

It is estimated that Amati made some 38 instruments between 1560 and 1574 for the Queen Regent of France Catherine de Medici on behalf of her young son, Charles IX of France; one of these was a gilded bass violin, elaborately painted with royal symbols, called The King. There is some uncertainty about the exact date the instrument was crafted; The King's "label" gives the date as 1572, but some scholars have proposed an earlier date. Much of the collection was destroyed during the French Revolution but some pieces were recovered by Giovanni Battista Viotti's student M. J. B. Cartier. It then changed hands several times, first being acquired by the Duport brothers, Jean-Pierre and Jean-Louis. According to the instrument's documentation it was then purchased from Rembert Wurlitzer Co. in 1967 by Lawrence Witten.[7] The King is currently part of the collection at the National Music Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota.[8]

Role in the development of the modern violin[edit]

Based on iconographic and literary evidence, the violin can be dated back to 1520. There is no agreement among scholars regarding the development of the early violin. The rebec, fiddle and violoncello are attested to in Gaudenzio Ferrari's frescoes at the church of Saronno and Madonna of the Orange Tree at the church of Vercelli. However, According to Sotheby's:

"There is no surviving identifiable precedent for the exquisitely refined instruments that Amati made to the commission of Charles IX of France and Pope Pius V from about 1566 onward. Technically he may have added a fourth string to a louder, outdoor cousin of the viol that was intended to accompany dance music. Artistically he changed everything."[9]

Sotheby's says "Amati's brilliance raised the status of the violin from a farmhand's entertainment to an embellishment fit for a royal court.[9]

According to a biography by Roger Hargrave, Amati is one of the top candidates scholars have advanced for the inventor of the violin.[1] The two other candidates he named were a luthier born in Fussen / Bavaria, now part of present-day Germany. The other candidate he named was Gasparo' da Salo from Brescia.

The violin-like instruments that existed when Amati began his career only had three strings.[10] Amati is credited with creating the first four stringed violin-like instrument.[11] Laurence Witten also lists Amati and Gasparo' da Salo, as well as Pellegrino de' Micheli, also from Brescia; as well and Ventura di Francesco de' Machetti Linarol, of Venice.[12] Amati's first violins were smaller than modern violins, with high arches, wide purfling, and elegantly curved scrolls and bodies.[13]

Andrea Amati's two sons, Antonio Amati and Girolamo Amati, were also highly skilled violin makers, as was his grandson Nicolò Amati, who had over a dozen highly regarded apprentices, including Antonio Stradivari and Andrea Guarneri.[6]

Andrea Amati
c. 1505–1577
Antonio Amati
c. 1537–1607
Girolamo Amati
Nicola Amati
Jacob Stainer
c. 1618–1683
Antonio Stradivari
Girolamo Amati II
Andrea Guarneri
F. Stradivari
O. Stradivari
Pietro Guarneri
Giuseppe Guarneri
1666–c. 1739/40
Giuseppe Guarneri "del Gesu"
Pietro Guarneri "de Venice"
  • solid lines = Pere-Fils
  • dashed lines = Maitre-Eleve
Ex-Kurtz violin at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts (ca. 1560).


  1. ^ a b Roger Hargrave. "Andrea Amati 1505 - 1577" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-31.
  2. ^ ""The King" Cello: Andrea Amati -- 1572". Cello heaven. Retrieved 2012-03-31.
  3. ^ a b "Images from The Rawlins Gallery: The King Violoncello by Andrea Amati, Cremona, after 1538". National Music Museum. 2012-01-14. Retrieved 2012-03-31.
  4. ^ Jürgen Seeger (6 June 2015). "Julius Berger / "Inspired by Bach"" (in German). BR. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  5. ^ "Images from The Rawlins Gallery: Violin by Andrea Amati, Cremona, 1574". National Music Museum. 2010-08-25. Retrieved 2012-03-31. This rare violin is the best preserved of the few surviving Andrea Amati instruments, retaining its original neck, blocked out at the heel, as can be seen the photos above.
  6. ^ a b Roberts, Jacob (2017). "Stradivari and the Search for Brilliance". Distillations. 3 (3): 12–23. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  7. ^ Laird, Paul R. (2004). The Baroque Cello Revival: An Oral History. ISBN 0810851539. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  8. ^ "National Music Museum in South Dakota is a world-class trove of rare instruments". Star Tribune. November 19, 2016. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  9. ^ a b Four Centuries of Violin Making: Fine Instruments from the Sotheby's Archive. Sotheby's. 2006. p. 11. ISBN 9780976443117. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  10. ^ Sheila M. Nelson (2003-06-20). The violin and viola: history, structure, techniques. Dover Publications. p. 11. ISBN 9780486428536. Retrieved 2012-03-31. Two violins, attributed to Amati, dated 1542 and 1546, were reported during the 19th century to have been converted from three strings to four, but there is no proof of this.
  11. ^ William Tydeman; Thomas Norton; Thomas Kyd (1992). Two Tudor Tragedies. Penguin Books. p. 268. ISBN 9780140445312. Retrieved 2014-01-21. ...when Gorboduc was first presented, three-string versions featuring in painting of the 1530s, and the four-string version being perfected by Andrea Amati of Cremona (c. 1520-1611), from whom the French King, Francois II, ordered thirty-eight stringed instruments in 1560.
  12. ^ Laurence C. Witten II (October 1982). "The Surviving Instruments of Andrea Amati". Early Music. Archived from the original on 2015-04-22. Retrieved 2012-03-31.
  13. ^ Sachs, Curt (1940). The History of Musical Instruments. W.W. Norton and Company. ISBN 9780393020687.