The National Museum of American History Library recently acquired a four volume set entitled Antonius Stradivarius edited by Jost Thone & Jan Rohrmann with text by Alessandra Barabaschi, et al. A few of the instruments depicted in this work can be found on display at the museum. This book provides background on these Stradivarius instruments.
Antonio Stradivari was born in Cremona, Italy around 1644. He was probably apprenticed to the luthier Nicolo Amati and began crafting instruments prior to 1665, though these earlier creations are now lost. Throughout his career, Stradivari created hundreds of instruments but only 620 are known to us today. He died in 1737, around age 95. His reputation as a master luthier and the influence of his instruments as works of art can still be felt every time one of his creations is played. On display, in the Hall of Musical Instruments at the National Museum of American History, are four superb examples of his work. Highlighted here are two of them.
The "Greffuhle" Violin, named for a former owner, Vicomte de Greffuhle, was constructed of spruce and maple around 1700 by Stradivari. The front and back feature an inlay of ivory in a repeating pattern of lozenges and circles. The sides of the violin are intricately carved and depict scrolling foliage with a rollicking chase scene between leopards and griffins. This decoration, without the chase scene, can also be seen on the scroll of the violin. The "Greffuhle" is one of eleven known instruments by Stradivari that are decorated.
Jost Thone & Jan Rohrmann, editors; text, Alessandra Barabaschi…et al. Antonius Stradivarius. [Cologne]: Jost Thone Verlag, 2010. Volume 3, pages 8-9, front and back of the "Greffuhle" Violin.
Jost Thone & Jan Rohrmann, editors; text, Alessandra Barabaschi…et al. Antonius Stradivarius. [Cologne]: Jost Thone Verlag, 2010. Volume 3, pages 10-11, sides and scroll of the "Greffuhle" Violin.
The "Servais" Cello, by Stradivari, was crafted in 1701 of spruce and maple and is his only known cello from that year. This cello has a rich reddish-orange varnish which is pleasing to the eye. On closer observation, traces of his design drawings can still be observed inside the f-holes. This cello, highly valued among experts, is a top tier work with striking sound quality. It is named after Adrien-Francois Servais, a Belgian cellist, who used this cello during his career. He was known for using the technique of vibrato and was one of the pioneering cellists to utilize the modern end pin.
Jost Thone & Jan Rohrmann, editors; text, Alessandra Barabaschi…et al. Antonius Stradivarius. [Cologne]: Jost Thone Verlag, 2010. Volume 2, pages 134-137, "Servais" Cello.
The "Greffuhle" Violin and "Servais" Cello, both shown in the four volume set, Antonius Stradivarius, were given to the Smithsonian Institution as gifts and can be viewed in the Hall of Musical Instruments at the National Museum of American History.
—Alexia MacClain and Molly Reynolds, photos by Liz O'Brien