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).

Subscribe now to keep reading …

This article is available exclusively to subscribers – subscribe now

Already subscribed? Please sign in

Strad subscription

We’re delighted that you are enjoying our website. To access this content you need to be a subscriber.

As a subscriber you’ll receive:

  • Monthly issues* packed with news, interviews and features
  • Special supplements including Accessories, Degrees, Cremona and String Courses
  • A monthly digital edition and an archive of online issues going back to January 2010
  • Full access to all premium online content on thestrad.com
  • Two posters a year and the annual Strad Directory*

*To receive the posters, the Strad Directory and issues and supplements in print, you will need to take out a print + online package

 If you are not ready to subscribe, register now to enjoy a selection of free content (excludes premium subscriber-only articles)