Antonio Stradivari (1644 – 1737) was an Italian craftsman predominantly famous for his violins, but he also made cellos, lutes, harps, guitars, and violas.
Stradivari is considered and recognized as the greatest and most significant artisan in this specific field.
U.K. based Hills & Company violin experts are estimating that Antonio Stradivari made 1,116 instruments, and that 960 of them were violins.
They also estimate that of all Stradivari instruments, some 650 survive, including some 450 to 512 of his famous violins.
The instruments made by Stradivari are recognized as the finest and best bowed stringed instruments that were ever created. They come with high prices and are today still favored and played by the best professionals.
There’s actually just one other violin maker, Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù, who has received a comparable respect among the world’s best violinists.
It is believed that Stradivari was in 1644, in Cremona, Italy, though there still exists some uncertainty about his birthplace, his childhood, and how he had managed to turn into Italy’s most skilled and famed luthier.
One thing is certain, though: Antonio Stradivari dedicated all of his life to making the perfect violin, and already during his lifetime, he had reached prominence, admiration, and recognition, which only increased since he died almost 280 years ago.
As said before, Stradivari made over 1,100 violins and other instruments in his lifespan, of which some 650 are still existing today. His violins, and also his other instruments, are still considered as the finest musical instruments ever made, and they continue to be the gold standard when it comes to sound, form, shape, and beauty.
Stradivari was manufacturing his finest instruments in the period 1700 – 1725. It was in that period that he perfected his violins, and in that time frame, he managed to set the standard for many artisans to come. During these golden days, Stradivari managed to create violins of which the sound boxes are absolutely unmatched till today.
He redesigned the violin’s sound box and gave them his signature wide corners and broad edges, and the typical deep-red varnish and black edging.
Stradivari’s created some of his most famous violins during his golden years including Lipinski (1715), and the Messiah (1716). The Messiah was actually never given away or sold, and the unique instrument remained with his creator until the day he died.
Stradivari not only crafted violins, he also made several other stringed instruments, such as lutes, cellos, mandolins, harps, and guitars.
Antonio Stradivari continued to make unrivaled instruments until he was in his late 70’s, but as he got older, his works seem to have become slightly less perfect than the ones he crafted during his golden years.
He managed, however, to continue to make his perfectly handcrafted instruments, such as the Prince Khevenhüller (1733), until he passed away in 1737.
All through the centuries, until today, scientists, artisans, and violin makers are still trying to recreate the unique and most beautiful sound of a Stradivarius violin or other instrument, but nobody ever came close.
Stradivarius instruments, and particularly his violins, are prized possessions that are generally housed in museums or in private collections around the globe.