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The Evolution of Violin Shape 2


Andrea Amati's earliest known, still existing violin is one of the 38 instruments made at the request of the French king, Charles IX's court orchestra. Today it can be seen in the Ashmolean Museum. The manufacture of the violin is dated between 1564 and 1575. Its originality, the original condition of all of its parts, is verified by the analysis of its multilayered lacquer engraving, made in ultraviolet light.

Franz Farga, in his book 'Violins and Violinists', presents another violin by Andrea Amati, however, the date of its manufacture (1574) coincides with the time interval of the preceding instruments defined on the basis of their analysis. If Andrea Amati was really born at the beginning of the 16th century, as it appears in several places in the professional literature, it is possible that he could have manufactured violins much earlier. (It is likely that his earlier instruments also served as references to the order of the French king.) However, only such documents, which are authentic for comparison, can be taken into consideration for our analysis. The instrument representations of the period’s representational art – panel paintings, frescos – provide support to a certain extent. Although, in this case, the date of the painting's manufacture and its authenticity can raise doubts. We also have to take into account that the creators' picturesque representation might have been inspired by their earlier made instruments, therefore the age of the depicted objects and the date of making the pictures can considerably diverge from each other. The creator's "revaluation", the artistic, individually altered interpretation of shapes that can often be seen in picturesque representations, can also conceal their uncertainties. The earliest known violin representations with today's shape are from paintings made at the end of the 16th century, for example, Hans Mielich's 'The Chamber Music of the Bavarian Court Orchestra in Saint George's Chamber' painted in 1570, and Michelangelo da Caravaggio's 'Lute Player' from 1595. Many violin-shaped instrument representations can be seen in the paintings known from the beginning of the 16th century. However, these differ in their characters and shape details from the shapes of the later developed violins that are used nowadays as well. (with their arching patterns resembling lyres and their hollow peg boxes, as well as their sound posts with rhapsodic delineation).

Since in this study we intend to acquire knowledge about the form altering role of visual arts influencing the evolution of violins, the approximately right settling of the period and age of this process is not indispensable. At the notional time of the evolution of violins – according to different literary sources, in the 16th century – eventful social transformation, intellectual change, lively artistic style change had occurred in Europe. Consequently, only a half-century divergence can lead to a misconclusion in the assessment of the possible correlation between the evolution of violins and the artistic view that appeared at the same time. In this manner, our intention to search for the evolution and comparison of the shapes of violins among the shape features of the fine arts determining in the same period of time cannot be considered as an exaggeration. With today's advanced analyses, on the basis of authentic, original, existing instruments, the time of the evolution of violins can be objectively dated to the second half of the 16th century. It is likely that a longer or shorter process lies behind this. It undoubtedly obtained its matured, specific features and refined shapes following the work of Nicola Amati (1596-1684), Jákob Steiner (1617-1683) Antonio Stradivarius (1645-1737) and Guseppe Guamerius (del Gesu) (1696-1744). You can find instruments similar to the early violin makers' works, as well as auctions in connection with the topic on the website of Cremonae.
 

Author: Christopher Grimes

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