Stradivari’s moulds: Variations on a theme

Stradivari moulds Table 3

Twelve violin moulds from Antonio Stradivari’s workshop still survive, but how do they correspond to the master’s oeuvre? In the first of two articles,Philip Ihle and Andrea Zanrè present the results of an exhaustive survey to match forms to finished instruments

Similarly to how shoes are built on a last, violins in the Stradivari workshop were built on an internal mould. The ribs were bent around this mould, determining the dimensions of the corpus. The differences in size are not large, but they do affect sound and playability of the violins. We notice this as makers with our own violins, and, when studying Stradivari’s oeuvre it becomes clear that he consciously experimented with the proportions of his instruments.

Twelve of these moulds have survived, and are now housed at the Museo del Violino in Cremona. A lot of precious work has been done on the possible design of these moulds, most notably by François Denis. In 1994 mathematician David Woodrow published The Shape of Stradivari Forms and Violins, in which he analysed the changes in their dimensions over Stradivari’s 66-year career. Other valuable sources include Stewart Pollens’s 1992 book The Violin Forms of Antonio Stradivari and the chapter on the moulds in Simone Sacconi’s influential 1972 work I ‘Segreti’ di Stradivari, in which he gives his well-known interpretation of the letters inscribed on the moulds (‘P’ = prima, ‘S’ = seconda, ‘PG’ = prima grande, and so on).

Already subscribed? Please sign in

Subscribe to continue reading…

We’re delighted that you are enjoying our website. For a limited period, you can try an online subscription to The Strad completely free of charge.

  • Free 7-day trial

    Not sure about subscribing? Sign up now to read this article in full and you’ll also receive unlimited access to premium online content, including the digital edition and online archive for 7 days.

    No strings attached – we won’t ask for your card details

  • Subscribe 

    No more paywalls. To enjoy the best in-depth features and analysis from The Strad’s latest and past issues, upgrade to a subscription now. You’ll also enjoy regular issues and special supplements* and access to an online archive of issues back to 2010.


* Issues and supplements are available as both print and digital editions. Online subscribers will only receive access to the digital versions.