The gain in Spain: German makers in Naples

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In the 16th century, many European cities saw an influx of makers from Germany – and the cultural milieu and civic policies of Spanish-held Naples proved particularly attractive. Luigi Sisto explains how the expatriate community laid the groundwork for the city’s lutherie tradition

The story of violin making in Naples essentially began with the German makers. From the mid-16th century, luthiers from Germany began to move into other parts of Europe, often seeking refuge from the religious wars of the time (see The Strad, April 2018). Many headed for Italy, partly because of the country’s Catholicism and partly because of the perceived market for musical instruments. As it happened, the Kingdom of Naples had been under Spanish rule since 1553, and had expanded to become the second largest city in Europe after Paris. It was also a cultural hub, playing host to artists such as Caravaggio and Bernini, and the Spanish viceroys encouraged musical patronage – as early as 1458, Ferdinand I of Aragon had gained a reputation as a patron of music and the arts, which attracted a good number of instrument makers from across Europe. It was Ferdinand who in 1469 issued the Prammatica super immunitatibus exterorum, a decree stating that all foreigners would be regarded as part of the ‘natio’, a community of citizens of equal rank.

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