Andrea Amati is considered to be the inventor of the violin as we know it today. He was the first violin maker in Cremona, and he and his descendants established the city’s reputation as the home of violin making.
More importantly, his conception of the violin provided the inspiration for all subsequent instruments, including those of Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesù. Given our familiarity with later instruments, it is difficult to fully appreciate the modernity of Andrea’s work, but the design that he established has remained largely unaltered for 450 years.
Few of Andrea Amati’s instruments survive today. Of those that do, many were commissioned by wealthy patrons and royalty, such as the celebrated group of instruments made for Charles IX of France. These instruments date from 1564 to 1574, and we must assume that Amati had been working for some time prior to that date to have won a commission from the French court. His earliest known instrument is thought to date from 1546, but sadly all trace of it has been lost. The instruments made for Charles IX were decorated with the royal coat of arms, and the cutdown viola illustrated here was also decorated to reflect its ownership, in this case by a noble Italian family of the rank of Marquis.