Domenico Montagnana moved to the great instrument-making centre of Venice around 1701, at the age of fifteen. Although Montagnana was almost certainly acquainted with Matteo Goffriller, Stefano Pio suggests that he learned his craft in the workshop of Matteo Sellas, before establishing his own shop in 1712.
Montagnana’s early violins show Stainer’s influence, which was prevalent at the time. This is evident in the flowing f-holes and high archings of the 1721 violin. From about 1730 his models broadened, the archings flattened, and overall his work became more Italian in character. These later instruments make fine solo instruments, and the 1731 violin is typical of Montagnana’s best work.
Montagnana’s cellos are his greatest legacy, and are considered by many to be the equal of Stradivari’s. During this period Venice was at the forefront of cello design, and Montagnana developed a short but exceptionally broad model that makes his cellos not only distinctive but also extremely successful as concert instruments. This model undoubtedly influenced G.B. Guadagnini as he developed his own cello model of similar proportions in the 1740s. Montagnana’s cellos share something of the reputation enjoyed by Guarneri del Gesù’s violins, retaining much of the quality of tone of a Stradivari, but tending to produce a more penetrating sound.
The double bass of circa 1747 dates from the last period of Montagnana’s life, and is one of only three known surviving examples.