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On December 18, 1737, famous Italian violin maker Antonio Stradivari passed away. Besides violins Stradivari also crafted cellos, guitars, violas, and harps. He is generally considered the most significant and greatest artisan in this field.
There is only little known of Stradivari's early life, but his oldest surviving violin was presumably from 1666. It is assumed that he began apprenticeship with Nicolo Amati at the age of about 12 years. Amati was a violin maker who held a great reputation. His way of building instruments was admired and he started teaching important figures from today's perspectives like Matthias Klotz, who also became known for his violins. However, several historians claim, that Stradivari became a woodworker first and then went into designing instruments.
Also, it is assumed that Antonio Stradivari only slowly developed his unique style of building violins, but from the very beginning, his instruments were not much alike with those of Nicolo Amati. Stradivari's were known to be a lot more masculine with less rounded curves. In the 1680s, his reputation grew and it is assumed that he was supposed to build an entire set of instruments that were presented to King James II of England. After Amati passed away, the demand for Stradivari instruments suddenly grew and in this period, his style changed dramatically as well. Soon, he was known as one of the most brilliant craftsmen world wide.
Another change in style by Stradivari was being noticed after his wife passed away. His patterns got larger and the vanish became darker, opposing Amati's yellow-ish vanish. With the beginning of the 18th century, Stradivari's so called Golden Period began and the quality of his instruments increased as much as his selling rates.
On this day, his instruments count as the finest with the most beautiful sound ever built. Even today, many high professional musicians play the historic instruments and the record price paid as a public auction for a Stradivari was over 2 million USD in 2005. The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra owned the largest known collection of Stradivari instruments, but sold it just recently.
At yovisto, you may enjoy a lecture about the violins made by Stradivari and some background information on his life and work by Peter Skaerved at the Library of Congress