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Violin and Lute Makers of Venice 1640 - 1760. 

Liuteria Veneziana 1640-1760
by Stefano Pio


Stefano Pio, the author, has achieved one of the most important and complete research ever published on the history of violin making in Italy, bringing to life both the obscure and more celebrated violin makers of the mid-17th to mid-18th centuries, such as Matteo Goffriller, Francesco Gobetti, Carlo Tononi, Pietro Guarneri, Santo Serafin, and Domenico Montagnana. Within the elegant covers of this new book can be found a wealth of invaluable unpublished source information, along with photographs ( 51 instruments) of the highest quality of the most important and representative examples of each violin maker’s work. This beautifully illustrated book is truly a groundbreaking study, revealing hundreds of recently discovered facts, while at the same time conclusively dispelling many mysteries and commonly held errors. Pio’s new book literally brings the reader into Venice’s brilliant past, making it come alive once again.


Profits from the sale of this book will be donated to charity.


“ One of the most memorable moments of my life was the first time I arrived in Santa Lucia railway station in Venice.  Stepping off the night train from Munich, armed only with a rucksack and negligible Italian, I was totally overwhelmed by the sight which confronted me.  As I recall the impact of that extraordinary view of the Grand Canal in the early morning sunshine, I feel I should somehow have sensed that this beautiful city would, at some stage in my life, have a deeper significance for me.  When I try to recall a comparable experience in the last few years, I instinctively think of that moment of anticipation when an instrument case is opened, and the glory of its contents is revealed.
In the world of violins, Cremona has often tended to get all the glory.  This is perhaps no surprise, given that it was Italy’s undisputed violin-making capital for well over a century, from the early 1600s to the middle of the 18th century.  By comparison, Venice’s golden age of violin-making, conveniently squeezed into the first half of the 18th century, seems almost a flash in the pan, but that is precisely what makes it so fascinating.  The key to this sudden flourishing of creative genius lies in Venice’s political and, more specifically, its musical history.
Throughout the 17th century Venice had fought to retain its political and cultural independence, refusing to accept the authority of Rome or to ally itself with any other state.  This created a spirit of autonomy unique to the Venetians, and the city’s importance as a port brought with it great wealth and a host of different cultural influences.  Venice was also home to two of the great instrumentalist/composers of the 17th and early 18th centuries, Claudio Monteverdi and Antonio Vivaldi, and between 1637 and 1700 the city boasted no less than eleven theatres devoted to opera and four conservatories of music.  This level of musical activity was sufficient to support hundreds of musicians, and of course a good many capable violin makers. 
So it was hardly a coincidence that by the 1720s, Venice was home to six of the leading violin makers of the day.  This was in spite of the fact that there was no great violin-making patriarch attracting young talent to the city, as Nicolo Amati had done in Cremona in the 1640s and 1650s. 
My impressions of this glorious city are now, of course, very much tied up with the instruments it produced.  For a specialist in any field of expertise, there is no substitute for seeing the object in the flesh.  One’s memory, and by extension one’s capablilities, are made up of various first-hand experiences, all burned into the memory banks like that summer morning on the forecourt of Santa Lucia station.  In this respect, I count myself extremely lucky to have a career which affords me the opportunity to see many of the world’s great instruments, and I am delighted that three of the finest that I have had the privilege of handling are featured in this volume. 
The Montagnana bass was the highlight of my first auction as Head of Musical Instruments at Sotheby’s, and I still have an almost(!) life-size picture of the back hanging behind my desk.  The sheer quantity of thick, wine-red varnish on this instrument is astonishing, and it represents an opportunity for experts, who are perpetually examining the minutest of details, to appreciate a masterpiece on a truly grand scale.  The 1725 Carlo Tononi was sold at Sotheby’s Chicago in the year 2000, and smashed the existing world auction record for a Tononi violin.  Its stunning slab-cut back is as fine a piece of wood as I have seen on any violin, and the delicacy of the work would almost seem more typical of Cremona than Venice.  At the time, when I suggested to one of my most trusted colleagues that the work was possibly a little too fine for Tononi, he reassured me, saying “don’t worry – if it’s not a Tononi, it’s a Strad!”  But for me, the undoubted highlight of this volume is the late Sanctus Seraphin featured on page 356.  It is a violin of such purity and originality, that when it appeared on the market in early 2004, fresh from a private collection where it had lain untouched for over a century, it baffled even some of the world’s most eminent experts.  For a maker whose principal influences were Amati and Stainer, the use of a ‘long’ Stradivari model is a surprise, indeed a breath of fresh air.  Yet, for all its originality, it is unmistakeably a Seraphin, and one of the finest most of us will ever see.
I sincerely hope that you will enjoy this book as much as I have enjoyed contributing to it.”

 Tim Ingles, Head  Dept.of Musical Instruments at Sotheby’s, London


Vocabolario Termini Veneziani -  Glossary of Venetian Terms
Introduzione – Introduction
La famiglia Sellas -  The Sellas Family
         Matteo (I)
         Zuanne (I) e Magno (II)
         Zuanne (II)
         Matteo (II)
         Zuanne (III)
Cristoforo Coch
Pietro e Zuanne Railich
Zuanne e Paolo Recaldini
Marchio Vines
Nicol� Taiber  e Francesco Bognolo
Michele Straub
La famiglia Kaiser - The Kaiser Family

Matteo Goffriller
          Gli esordi – The Beginning
          La vita - His Life
          I collaboratori – His Collaborators   (Comel – Lazinger- Ongaro)
          L’opera - His work

Zuanne Curci
Francesco Gobbetti

Pietro Guarneri
        La vita - His life
        L’opera - His work

Carlo Tononi

Domenico Montagnana
        La vita - His life
        Gli amici - His Friends  (Sopran – Ongarato)
        L’opera - His work
        L’eredit� – Estate

Santo Serafin
        La vita - His life
        L’opera - His work

Misure e note strumenti -  Measurements and Notes on the Instruments
Lista note - Notes
Indice dei nomi - Biographical Index
Bibliografia - Bibliography

Information and purpose of Venice Research Location, address and contact Articles, posters, researches on Venetian luthiers and instruments Links Italian Version
Information and purpose of Venice Research Location, address and contact Articles, books, researches on Venetian luthiers and instruments Reviews Italian Version