In focus: a 1929 violin by Paolo Guadagnini

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Richard Ward examines an instrument by the last member of the Guadagnini dynasty

Spanning six generations, the Guadagnini family was the longest dynasty of Italian makers. Starting with Giovanni Battista, who was born in 1711, the family’s violin making history continued until 1948 with the death of Francesco Guadagnini (born in 1863). The last generation of the Guadagnini dynasty was Francesco’s son Paolo, who was born in 1908. He trained at first in his father’s workshop and later improved his skills in the Turin atelier of Annibale Fagnola. Unfortunately he had a very short career: drafted into the Italian army during the Second World War, he died on a troop transport ship which was bombed on 28 December 1942. 

The violin shown here dates from the early part of Paolo’s career. Although we don’t know for certain, Paolo probably made only about 20 instruments before his death and spent part of his time doing repairs and handling some of the business aspects of the successful Guadagnini firm. This violin, made in his father’s style, shows how gifted he really was, especially considering that he was only 21 years old at the time. We can only imagine the quality of instruments he might have made, had he lived into his sixties or seventies. And, one wonders, would there have been yet another generation (or two) of Guadagnini makers?

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