Violin Makers of the Amati Family

Note: The most famous makers of violins, such as Stradivari, Guarneri, Maggini, Amati, da Salo, and Stainer, had many followers and imitators. Often a disciple placed a facsimile label in a violin to acknowledge or honor the master whose model inspired his work. Also, commercially made instruments often bear facsimile labels to identify the model of the product. Therefore, the presence of a label with a famous name has no bearing on whether the instrument is genuine.

Among the many makers bearing the Amati name, the following are outstanding:

Andrea (Cremona, Italy, 1525-1611) is known as the founder of the great Cremonese school of violin making. Before he turned to making violins, he was making viols and rebecs. Instruments dated after 1584 are said to be the work of his sons Antonius and Hieronymus, and instruments known to be by Andrea are not numerous. It is claimed that he made 24 violins, 6 violas, and 8 cellos for Charles IX of France to be used at the court of Versailles, a few of which survive.

Specimen label:

  • Andrea Amati Cremonensis fecit anno 1546
    (i.e., made by Andrea Amati of Cremona in the year 1546)

Antonio (1560-1649) and Hieronymus (1562-1630), sons of Andrea, made instruments jointly and separately, and are thought to have succeeded their father at the French court. Their instruments show good workmanship and have agreeable tonal qualities but are not in the realm of "great."

Specimen label:

  • Antonius et Hieronymus Fr. Amati Cremonen Andrea fil F. 1584
    (i.e., made by Antonio and Hieronymus, Amati Brothers, the sons of Andrea of Cremona in 1584)

Nicolo (1596-1684), son of Hieronymus, grandson of Andrea, and nephew of Antonio, is considered the greatest instrument maker of the family. His instruments are much admired for their beautiful and penetrating, though not powerful, tone. Violins, violas, cellos, several three- string bass viols, and at least one pochette by his hand are known.

Specimen label:

  • Nicolaus Amatus Cremonae Hieronymus et Antonius Nepos fecit anno 1664
    (i.e., made by Nicolo Amati of Cremona, descendant of Hieronymus and Antonius, in the year 1664)

Selected Bibliography

  • Henley, William. Universal Dictionary of Violin and Bow Makers. 1956-60. 5 vols. supplement. Reprint. Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England: Amati Publishing, Ltd. 1997.
  • Jalovec, Karel. Enzyklopädie des Geigenbaues. Trans. into German by Charlotte and Ferdinand Kirschner. Prague: Artia, 1965.
  • Lütgendorff, Willibald Leo, Freiherr von. Die Geigen und Lautenmacher vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart, nach den besten Quellen beartbeitet. 2 vols. 6th ed. Frankfurt am Main: Frankfurter Verlags-Anstalt, 1922.
  • Vannes, René, and Claude Lebet. Dictionnaire universel des luthiers. 3 vols. 5th ed. Brussels: Les Amis de la musique, 1981.
  • Woodcock, Cyril. Dictionary of Contemporary Violin and Bow Makers. Continues William Henley's Universal Dictionary of Violin and Bow Makers. Brighton, Sussex, England: Amati Publishing, Ltd. 1965.

Prepared by the Division of Music, Sports and Entertainment
in cooperation with Public Inquiry Services, 
Smithsonian Institution
PIMS/Mus 18/8-00