The logic governing the structure of Stradivari’s violins remains a mystery. André Theunis and Alexandre Wajnberg take a fresh look at his moulds to find an intriguing system of proportions, utilising the tools and measuring systems of his day
What was it that guided the designs of Antonio Stradivari’s instruments? Existing studies on the structure of the violin give complex answers with regard to the knowledge and practice of luthiers in the 17th century. This may be the time to apply the principle of Occam’s razor, namely that ‘preference should be given to the simplest assumptions’.
We re-examined the dimensions of the Stradivari moulds from the point of view of the violin maker, taking into account the available tools, woodworking techniques and measurement systems. By reasoning in a spirit of simplicity, we can highlight sub-structures in his moulds with rational proportions that are easy to draw and possess important musical and symbolic meanings.
The standard unit of measurement in Cremona was the braccio (‘arm’), equivalent to 483.5mm according to the official table of weights and measures published by royal decree on 20 May 1877. First of all, it should be noted that the distance between the upper saddle and bottom saddle of the Baroque violin is very close to 483.5mm, to the braccio cremonese, a round number (figure 1)…
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