‘An appearance of delicacy’ - Guarneri ‘del Gesù’ 1736 violin: Beauty from the Beast

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Although Guarneri ‘del Gesù’ is best known for his wild, unruly later masterpieces, the 1736 ‘Cessole’, ‘Teja–Ferni’ violin reveals his softer side, as Carlo Chiesa explains

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This article appeared in the July 2010 issue of The Strad

As a violin maker, Giuseppe Guarneri ‘del Gesù’ was a genius. When he died, in October 1744, he was just a few months older than 46. Stradivari lived for twice as long, and it is tempting to wonder what Guarneri would have achieved had he lived as long as this other great master. Guarneri’s accomplishments are all the more impressive when one considers that he spent less than half of his life making violins. Very few instruments – if any – are attributed to him before 1727, and legal documents suggest that in the late 1720s he was still employed in a trade completely unrelated to lutherie. This means that he was perhaps only engaged in making instruments for 15 years or so in total. And yet these last 15 years of his life were very productive: from the number of instruments still in existence today – and allowing for a credible number of lost instruments – it is safe to assume that he produced an average of twelve to fifteen per year…

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