At the beginning of the 1630s Nicolò Amati found himself to be practically the only notable violin maker in Italy. The plague of 1630-31 had claimed his father, Girolamo, as a victim, as well as Giovanni Paolo Maggini in Brescia. Thus, it was left to Nicolò to continue the Amati family business and to uphold its violin-making tradition. The instruments illustrated in our archive cover the breadth of Nicolò’s output over his long working life, which spanned more than 60 years.
Nicolò adapted and improved on his father’s work, developing the ‘Grand Pattern,’ which is perhaps his most significant contribution to the acoustics of the violin (see a violin circa 1683). His immaculate craftsmanship can be seen in the 1635 example, which also demonstrates the quality of the wood that he had at his disposal this early in his career. The 1640s and 50s are considered the pinnacle of his career, and from about 1670 he progressively entrusted most of the work to his son, Girolamo.
Nicolò’s great legacy is as a teacher, and his apprentices in the years 1640-1670 included Andrea Guarneri, G.B. Rogeri, Giacomo Gennaro and possibly Jacob Stainer. Recent research suggests that Francesco Ruggieri and Antonio Stradivari were never apprentices in the Amati household, but they were undoubtedly acquainted with his methods and influenced by his style. It would be more accurate to describe Stradivari as a follower of Nicolò Amati rather than a pupil, but it is still true to say that it was Amati’s work that inspired the two great violin-making families of Stradivari and Guarneri.