In Focus: A c.1750 violin by Santo Serafin


Jonathan Marolle investigates the mid-18th-century Italian instrument

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Even though I have known this c.1750 Santo Serafin violin for more than 15 years and had the chance to examine it regularly, I was struck by the new details I noticed, which until now had escaped me. All his instruments demonstrate miraculous dexterity and refinement.

The main sources of inspiration throughout Santo Serafin’s career were Jacob Stainer and Nicolò Amati. He was born in in 1699 in Udine, a town around 80 miles north-east of Venice. I like to think that he began his career in the workshop of Francesco Gofriller, son of the more famous Matteo, who started work in Udine around 1714. The instruments of these two luthiers have nothing in common apart from the use of the same type of brand marking. Could Santo Serafin have left Udine for Venice with Francesco’s endorsement in his pocket? Whatever happened, he certainly arrived in the city shortly before 1720, an incredible period that also saw Pietro Guarneri and Carlo Tononi appear in that city…

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