Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Antonio Stradivari
The famous Cremonese violin-maker, b. in 1649 or 1650; d. at Cremona, 18 or 19 Dec., 1737. He was the son of Alessandro Stradivari and Anna Moroni. As there is no evidence of his birth and baptism in any of the parish registers of Cremona, it is supposed that he was born in some village near that town. In 1667 he began to make stringed instruments. Some violins, dated in the seventies, and signed by him, are supposed to exist, but evidences of Stradivari's workmanship are to be found in many violins of this date which are signed by Nicholas Amati. It is probable that during the years 1667-79 he worked as a pupil in Amati's workshop.
In 1680 Stradivari set up for himself in the Piazza San Domenico, and his fame as a violin-maker was soon established. He now began to show his originality, and to make alterations in Amati's model. The arching was improved, the various degrees of thickness in the wood were more exactly determined, the formation of the scroll altered, and the varnish more highly coloured. From 1698 to 1725 Stradivari produced his finest instruments and carried his manufacture to the highest possible finish, the outlines are designed with taste and purity, the wood is rich and carefully selected, the arching falls off in gentle and regular curves, the scroll is carved with great perfection, and the varnish is fine and supple. The interior workmanship is no less perfect, the degrees of thickness are carefully adjusted, and are remarkable for a precision which could only have been attained by much study and experiment. Everything has been foreseen, calculated, and determined with certainty. The instruments produced from 1725-30 are not so fine. After 1730 many are signed "sub disciplina Stradivarii," and were probably made by his sons, Omobono and Francesco.
Stradivari fixed the exact shape and position of the sound-holes, and his model has been copied by most makers since his time. He definitively settled the shape and details of the bridge, which cannot be altered in the slightest degree without in some way injuring the tone of the instrument. The only essential part of the violin which has had to be changed since Stradivari's time is the bass-bar. On account of the gradual rise in pitch the increased pressure of the strings demands an increased power of resistance in the bar underneath the bridge, hence it has been found necessary to re-bar all the old violins and violoncellos. Stradivari was buried in the Basilica of San Domenico.
Stradivari Family, The.—The name Stradivari goes back to the Middle Ages; we find it spelt in various ways, Stradivare, Stradiverto, Stradivertus. Fetis professes to find it in the municipal archives of Cremona for the years 1127 and 1186. The name was certainly borne by more or less distinguished citizens of Cremona during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Signor Mandelli gives, as the earliest known mention of it, a document dated May, 1188, in which it is recorded that certain pieces of land were leased by the canon and chief warden of the cathedral of Cremona to one Giovanni Stradiverto and his heirs. Arisi, the Cremonese monk, who wrote concerning Antonio Stradivari in 1720, mentions: Galiero Stradivari, a learned Orientalist, who lived in the thirteenth century; Alessandro Stradivari, another Orientalist, about the end of the thirteenth century; Costanzo Stradivari, of about the same period, a monk, who wrote a treatise on the natural philosophy of Aristotle. Fetis also mentions: Guglielmus Stradivertus, an excellent lawyer, who died in 1439. It is certain that the name was a common one in Cremona, but we have no exact evidence to prove that Stradivari, the violin-maker, was directly connected with the above-mentioned persons. The earliest documentary record of his ancestry is to be found in the marriage registry of the cathedral of Cremona, where there is an entry, dated April, 1600, of the marriage of Giulio Cesare Stradivari, of the parish of S. Michele Vecchio, to Doralice Milani, of the parish of the cathedral. They had a son, Alessandro, christened in the church of S. Michele in January, 1602; and in the register of the parish of S. Prospero, is the entry of the marriage of this Alessandro Stradivari and Anna Moroni - the father and mother of Antonio.
Francesco Stradivari, son of Antonio, b. 1 Feb., 1671; d. 11 May, 1743. He followed his father's calling, and was the only one of Stradivari's sons to inherit any of the father's skill in making stringed instruments. He made very good violins; some are signed by himself, and others, made with the, help of his brother Omobono, are signed "sotto la disciplina d'Antonio Stradivari." His work is quite distinct in character from Antonio's. Both Francesco and Omobono were overshadowed by the genius of their father; they produced good work, if not work of the highest quality.
Omobono Stradivari, son of Antonio, b. 14 Nov., 1679; d. 8 June, 1742. He also followed his father's trade, and made some violins in conjunction with his brother Francesco. His work was chiefly confined to the repair and fitting up of instruments; possibly he made bows, instrument-cases - which were specially designed for wealthy patrons, and often things of great value and beauty - and various fittings, such as bridges, pegs, tail-pieces, etc.
Paolo Stradivari, the youngest son of Antonio by a second marriage, b. 26 Jan., 1708; d. 14 Oct., 1776. He was a cloth merchant, and the only son of the great Stradivari who married. On the death of Francesco, Paolo received the collection of tools, moulds, patterns, drawings, correspondence, and memoranda left by their father, and also several instruments, including the famous "Alard" Strad of 1715, and the unrivalled "Messie" violin of 1716. In 1775 this collection of relics was sold by Paolo to the Count Cozio de Salabue, and afterwards passed into the hands of the late Marquis Alessandro Dalla Valle. Cesare Stradivari, a grandson of Paolo, b. in 1789, was celebrated as a Physician.
GROVE, Dictionary of Music and Musicians (London, 1898), III; FETIS, Notice of Anthony Stradivari, tr. BISHOP (London, 1864).