violins with stradivarius label
Antonio Stradivari was born in 1644 and established his workshop in Cremona, Italy, where he remained active until his death in 1737. His interpretation of the geometry and design of the violin has served as a conceptual model for luthiers for more than 250 years.
Stradivari also made harps, guitars, violas and cellos, more than 1,100 instruments in all, according to current estimates. around 650 of these instruments survive today. In addition, thousands of violins have been made in tribute to Stradivari, copying his model and with labels that say “Stradivarius “. therefore, the presence of a stradivarius label on a violin has no bearing on whether the instrument is a genuine work of the stradivarius himself.
the usual label, whether genuine or fake, uses the Latin inscription antonius stradivarius cremonensis faciebat anno [date]. this inscription indicates the manufacturer (antonio stradivari), the city (cremona) and “made in the year”, followed by a printed or handwritten date. copies made after 1891 may also have a country of origin printed in English at the bottom of the label, such as “made in Czechoslovakia” or simply “germany”. imported goods.
Thousands and thousands of violins were made in the 19th century as cheap copies of the products of the great Italian masters of the 17th and 18th centuries. Placing a label with the master’s name was not intended to mislead the buyer but rather to indicate the model around which an instrument was designed. at the time, the buyer knew that he was buying a cheap violin and accepted the label as a reference to his derivation. as people rediscover these instruments today, knowledge of their provenance is lost and the labels can be misleading.
A violin’s authenticity (that is, whether it is the product of the maker whose label or signature it bears) can only be determined through a comparative study of the design, the characteristics of the model’s wood, and the texture of the varnish. this experience is gained by examining hundreds or even thousands of instruments, and there is no substitute for an experienced eye.
is your violin a genuine strad?
The Smithsonian Institution, as a matter of legal and ethical policy, does not determine the monetary value of musical instruments. For such an evaluation, we recommend that you have your instrument examined by a reputable violin dealer in your area. Although we cannot recommend a particular appraiser, we suggest that you contact the American Federation of Bow and Violin Makers, Inc. to get a list of members. if there is no convenient maker in your area, you may choose to send one of these members three black and white photographs of your violin showing front, side, and rear views of the instrument.
stradivarius instruments at the smithsonian
the smithsonian’s national museum of american history (nmah) has the 1701 “servais” cello made by stradivari, the only one famous for its state of preservation and musical excellence. It takes its name from the 19th century Belgian, Adrien Francois Servais (1807-1866), who played this cello. the herbert r. the axelrod stradivarius quartet of ornate instruments is also found in the nmah collections. These instruments can be heard in concert and on Smithsonian recordings. The Smithsonian Chamber Music Society’s exhibits, concerts, tours, broadcasts, recordings, and educational programs have brought the Smithsonian’s priceless collection of musical instruments to life for hundreds of thousands in the Washington area and millions of people around the world.
boyden, david dodge and others. the new family of fiddles from grove. new york: w.w. Norton, 1989.
doring, ernest n. how many strands? our heritage of the master: a tribute to the memory of a great genius, compiled in the tercentenary year of his birth, being a tabulation of the works that are believed to survive produced in cremona by antonio stradivari between 1666 and 1737, including relevant data and mention of his two sons, francesco and omobono. chicago: w. Lewis & son, 1945.
nice guy, herbert k. iconography of the violin by antonio stradivari, 1644-1737: treatises on the life and work of the patriarch of luthiers. larchmont, new york: published by the author, 1972.
hamma, walter. meister italienischer geigenbaukunst. Rev. new york edition: baerenreiter music publishers, 1964. text in german, english and french.
henley, william. universal dictionary of violin and bow makers. 1956-60. 5 vols. supplement. reprint. tunbridge wells, kent, england: amati publishing, ltd. 1997.
garza-allen, edward, 1861-1943. Violin-making, as it was and is: being a historical, theoretical, and practical treatise on the science and art of violin-making for the use of luthiers and violinists, amateurs and professionals. london: ward lockdown; new york, ny: distributed by sterling pub., 1984. (originally published 1885).
hill, william henry, arthur frederick hill, and alfred ebsworth hill. Antonio Stradivari: His Life and Work, 1644-1737. 1902. reprint. new york: dover, 1963.
jalovec, karel. enzyklopadie des geigenbaues. trans. into German by Charlotte and Ferdinand Kirschner. prague: artia, 1965.
lutgendorff, willibald leo, freiherr von. Die geigen und lautenmacher vom mittelalter bis zur gegenwart, nach den besten quellen bearbeitet. 2 vols. 6th ed. frankfurt am main: frankfurter verlags-anstalt, 1922.
lyon & heal the lyon and healy collection: rare antique violins, 16th, 17th, 18th century; also fine modern instruments. chicago: lyon & healthy, 1909.
orcutt, william dana. the stradivari memorial in washington, the national capital. 1938. reprint. new york: da capo press, 1977.
sacconi, simone f. the secrets of stradivari: with the catalog of the stradivarian relics contained in the civic museum ala ponzone in cremona. cremona: bookstore del convegno, 1979. translation of i segreti di stradivari.
vannes, rene and claude lebet. dictionary universel des luthiers. 3 vols. 5th ed. brussels: the friends of the music, 1981.
woodcock, cyril. dictionary of contemporary violinists and archers. brighton, sussex, england: amati publication, 1965.
Prepared by the Division of Music, Sports and Entertainment in Cooperation with Public Inquiry Services, Smithsonian Institution pims/mus29/rev 07/06