Antonio Stradivari (Lat.: Antonius Stradivarius) was born in
1644 in Cremona, Italy. He was trained as a manufacturer of string instruments by Nicolò Amati, before setting
up his own shop.
Stradivari is most famous for his Stradivarius violins,
although he also made harps, guitars, violas,
and cellos. It is estimated that Stradivari made
around 1100 instruments. Nowadays, only 650
instruments remain, including approximately 500 violins.
Unfortunately, there are also many "fake" Stradivarius violins on the
market. Until 1957, German manufacturers were building exact replicas of
Stradivari's designs, including the original inscription "Antonius
Stradivarius, Cremonenfis Faciebat Anno 17.." and a circular mark
with a cross, bearing the initials A.S. Many other countries also built
replicas that are difficult to distinguish from the real instruments.
The total number of Stradivarius replicas is in the millions,
although it must be noted that some replicas are quite good with respect
to their sound.
Stradivari's earliest instruments were similar to his master's; solidly
constructed small violins with a thick yellow varnish. Around 1684,
Stradivari switched to making larger instruments, and he started
experimenting with many changes in features of the design. He also
started using a deep colored varnish. The formulation of this varnish
is often considered as the secret to creating the perfect sound of the
Stradivarius violins. Other factors, such as the thickness of the wooden
top and back plates, and the microstructure of the wood are most likely
just as important. It must have been a very arduous experimental task
for Stradivari to achieve such a superb control over these factors.
Around 1690, Stradivari returned to his older designs, but he widened
his instrument again around 1700. From this point until his death in
1737, Stradivari's instrument achieved the highest level of perfection.
Two of Stradivari's sons, Francesco and Omobono continued the craft after his death.