Love in the time of violin-making

of Anna Adami

Amati, Guarneri, Stradivari, weddings and mysteries.

A Cremonese tour guide always talks about the history of the violin and its most famous builders, always leads people to the Violin Museum and walks in the city centre telling about Stradivari and colleagues. But there are more complicated stories to tell, more difficult information to find, more mysterious events to investigate.

Let’s talk about love stories, starring the ancient luthiers of Cremona.

Actually, we can only wonder if our famous stringed instrument makers celebrated Valentine’s Day, but some details regarding their love affairs and families emerge can be discovered.

We suspect that Andrea Amati (? – post 1577) got married at least twice, because his best known children, Antonio and Gerolamo, luthiers too, had more than 20 years of age of difference. We have no  information about the elder son who died in the early1600s. We know however that the younger one, who was killed by the plagued in 1630, got married twice: in 1574, he married Lucrezia Cornetti, staying in his family home and giving birth at least to one daughter, Elizabeth; then,  ten years later he married Laura Medici Lazzarini, niece to a noble Guazzoni.

On the whole, he had at least six sons and four daughters. Among them was Nicolò, one of the very few survivors of the terrible 1630 plague. At 30 years of age he was still unmarried and childless. He remained in this state until 1645, when, at 48, he married Lucrezia Pagliari, who was more than twelve years younger than him. On that occasion, his best man was his favorite pupil, the master Andrea Guarneri. And in the next 15 years he had many children including the unlucky Jerome II. Unlucky because as a violin maker he is almost unknown, but above all because over a few years he married Angela Carettoni, had a son and two daughters, lost his wife and the male heir, and finally went bankrupt.

What about the Guarneris? Of course, they must have been protagonists of family affairs: for example, we find all of them together – Andrea, Giuseppe filius, Pietro di Mantova, Pietro di Venezia – on the occasion of the baptism of Bartolomeo Giuseppe, later known as the famous Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù.

Finally, Antonio Stradivari is the undisputed protagonist of Cremonese violin making, and in love affairs too.

The first document about him is the act of marriage with Francesca Ferraboschi, celebrated on July 4, 1667 in the church of Sant’Agata. Four (or maybe nine!) years older than him, the woman was a widow, having married a few years earlier another widower, named Giovanni Giacomo Capra, with a dizzying dowry. But only two years later, he was shot dead by her brother, causing her the loss of the husband and the custody of their two children. Quite suddenly, then, with an agreement between the families and with a considerably smaller dowry, Francesca married Antonio Stradivari. They rented a house, that still overlooks Corso Garibaldi 67, from the architect Francesco Pescaroli. Giulia Maria, the first of six children, was baptized on December 22, 1667, just five months after the wedding.

In 1598, after more than thirty years of their marriage, Francesca died. She was replaced shortly thereafter by the much younger and wealthier Antonia Zambelli, from whom Stradivari would have five other children. She died in 1737 died just a few months before him. Usque ad obitum, till death do us part.

To find out more … call a guide of CrArT – Cremona Arte e Turismo.

Guide of  – Anna Adami

Anna Adami

Archeology and art history, foreign languages, music: the ingredients of a Cremonese tour guide’s education, with a past experience as a museum educator at the worldly famous Violin Museum. A teacher, an editor of articles and essays, an author and…
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