Girolamo Amati II was the final violin maker of the illustrious Amati dynasty – and possibly the most overlooked. Barbara Meyer examines a 1671 violin from his early career and contrasts it with another instrument he made 48 years later
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This article appeared in the July 2022 issue of The Strad
For almost a century, violin making in Cremona was dominated by the Amati family. The parish of Santi Faustino e Giovita, where Andrea Amati set up his workshop in 1538, became a mecca for customers seeking the best violins and violas, a tradition continued by Andrea’s sons Antonio and Girolamo, and especially by his grandson Nicolò. Even despite the competition from other talented Cremonese makers, the workshop of Nicolò Amati reigned supreme, as he busied himself training other luthiers while crafting some of the finest instruments the world had yet seen. To an outsider, it must have seemed as if the legacy of the Amati family would continue for decades if not centuries.
Life, however, had not been without significant challenges for the Amatis. Years of famine were followed by a plague in 1630 that swept across parts of Europe, decimating 60 per cent of Cremona’s population. Nicolò Amati was just 34 years old when he lost his parents, two sisters and other family members to the plague. The gifted and exceptionally trained master persevered, continuing to work at the family workshop established by his grandfather. This hub of Cremonese violin making was in an area with an abundance of artisans and merchants. In 1645 Nicolò married Lucrezia Pagliari, their wedding officially witnessed by one of their live-in workshop apprentices, Andrea Guarneri – who was to become an eminent Cremonese violin maker himself…
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