In Focus: A 1904 violin by Erminio Montefiori

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Alberto Giordano looks at the self-taught Italian luthier’s 20th-century instrument

Erminio Montefiori was born in La Spezia, a town on the border of Liguria and Tuscany, on 11 January 1841. In 1853 his father, a shoemaker, moved his family to Genoa, where Erminio soon became a skilled sculptor. He started to dedicate himself to violin making from at least 1883, when he gained a medal ‘for ability in violin restoration’ at that year’s Industrial Exhibition. In 1892 he participated in Genoa’s Italo–American exhibition and in 1894 in the Milan International Exhibition. In 1903 he moved to Marseilles where he died a year later.

It seems that Montefiori always worked alone and had no pupils. A self-taught luthier, he had a personal and free approach to violin making: his experience as a sculptor can be seen in the fast and confident carving of his scrolls. He often made use of models taken from 18th-century Genoese makers (quite an eccentric thing in those times) and as a result his instinctive approach to violin making led him to produce instruments that always have an antique look, as with the 1892 violin shown here…

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