Nicola Amati

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Nicola Amati
Nicolò Amati by Jacques-Joseph Lecurieux.jpg
Born(1596-09-03)3 September 1596
Died12 April 1684(1684-04-12) (aged 87)
Resting placeCremona Cathedral
Known forLuthier
Notable work
  • Alard (1649)
  • Brookings (1654)
  • King Louis XIV (1656)[1]
  • Hammerle (1658)
  • Amati style
  • Nicola Amati style
MovementCremonese school
Lucrezia Pagliari
(m. 1645; died 1684)

Nicola Amati, Nicolò Amati or Nicolao Amati (/əˈmɑːti/, Italian: [niˈkɔːla aˈmaːti, nikoˈlɔ -, nikoˈlaːo -]; 3 September 1596 – 12 April 1684) was an Italian master luthier from Cremona, Italy. Amati is one of the most well-known luthiers from the Casa Amati (House of Amati). He was the teacher of illustrious Cremonese School luthiers such as Andrea Guarneri and Giovanni Battista Rogeri.[2] While no clear documentation exists for their being apprentices in his shop, Amati may also have apprenticed Antonio Stradivari, Francesco Rugeri, and Jacob Stainer, as their work is heavily influenced by Amati.[3]

Early life[edit]

Nicola Amati was the fifth[4] son of Girolamo Amati (Hieronymus I, b.1561; d.1630) from his second wife, and the grandson of Andrea Amati. He was one of 12 children of Girolamo. Amati's mother, Laura de Lazzarini, also known as Laura de Medici de Lazzarini, was the daughter of Giovanni Francesco Guazzoni. They were distantly related to the Florentine Medici family.[5]

The 1629–31 Italian plague affected northern and central Italy including Cremona. In 1630, the plague killed Amati's father, mother and two of his sisters.[6] After his parents' death, he lived with his sister until his marriage.[6]



1670 Nicola Amati Double bass

Nicola probably apprenticed with his father and uncle. By the 1620s, Nicola was the dominant luthier in the Amati workshop.[6]

Amati style[edit]

Of all the Amati Family violins, those of Nicola are often considered most suitable for modern playing. As a young man his instruments closely followed the concepts of his father's, with a relatively small model and high arch rising nearly to a ridge in the centre of both the front and back of the instrument.[7]

The Latin forms of the first names, Andreas, Antonius, Hieronymus, and Nicolaus, were generally used on the violin labels,[8] and the family name was sometimes Latinized as Amatus.

Nicola Amati style[edit]

Beginning in 1630, he gradually began to show signs of originality, which by 1640 were expressed in what is now known as the "Grand Amati Pattern". This Grand Pattern was slightly larger (the backs being up to 35.6 cm (about 14 inches) long, and most notably, up to 20.9 cm (about 814 inches) wide, allowed a larger sound.[3] Well curved, long-cornered, and strongly and cleanly purfled, these instruments represent perhaps the height of elegance in violin making, and were characterized by mathematically derived outlines and transparent amber-colored varnish.[9] The Grand Amati style was the inspiration for other Cremonese makers such as Vincenzo Rugeri and early violins by Antonio Stradivari.

Distinguished apprentices[edit]

Amati was the lone survivor of fine luthier after the Italian Plague of 1629–31[citation needed]. Demand for musical instruments began to increase in the 1640s,[6] causing him to be one of the first to take apprentices from outside his family into his workshop.[5] Andrea Guarneri, who eventually founded the Guarneri Family of violin makers, was Amati's pupil.

Francesco Rugeri may have been a pupil of Nicola Amati, however, like Antonio Stradivari, census records also fail to mention his name in the census of the Amati household.[10] The lack of census records showing the Rugeri name may be explained by the possibility of Francesco not being an indoor apprentice, but one who lived and boarded at his own home while apprenticing.[11] Francesco occasionally inserted his labels in his instruments stating he was a pupil of Nicola Amati. For example, there exists a violin labelled "Francescus Rugerius Alumnus Nicolai Amati fecit Cremonæ 1663".[12] Nicolò Amati was the godfather to Francesco's son, Giacinto, indicating that the two families at least shared a close relationship and close collaboration would seem likely.[13][14]

Antonio Stradivari was likely a pupil of Nicola, although evidence is scarce. For instance, dendrochronology of the soundboard on a surviving Stradivarius harp from 1681 shows that it was made from the same tree trunk as an Amati cello made in 1679.[15] The only documentary evidence is one Antonio Stradivari label dated 1666, which reads, "Alumnus Nicolais Amati" - student of Nicolò Amati.[16] It has always been controversial whether he was an actual apprentice of Nicola Amati or merely considered himself a student and admirer of his work. There are important discrepancies between their work. Some researchers believe early instruments by Stradivari bear a stronger resemblance to Francesco Rugeri's work than Amati's. Additionally, the utilization of a small dorsal pin or small hole, invariably used not just by Nicolò Amati but all of his confirmed pupils—with the exception of Antonio Stradivari, adds further evidence that Stradivari may have learnt his craft apart from Amati. This pin or hole was fundamental in the graduation of the thickness of the plates and was obviously a technique passed on through generations of pupils of the Amati.[17] This dorsal pin is also not found in any of the instruments of the Rugeri family, suggesting Antonio Stradivari may have actually learnt his craft from Francesco Rugeri, although both being influenced by Amati.[18] W.E. Hill & Sons concede that they fail to find the hand of Stradivari in any of Nicolo Amati's work, although the unmistakable hands of Andrea Guarneri and Francesco Rugeri are evident.[19]

Other documented pupils of Amati include: Giovanni Battista Rogeri, Matthias Klotz, Jacob Railich, Bartolomeo Pasta, Bartolomeo Cristofori, Giacomo Gennaro, Giacomo 'Tedesco' (meaning 'German' and probably a nickname), Giacomo Reilich, Giovanni Segher (or Jaeger), and Amati's son, Hieronymus II (often referred to in English as Girolamo).[20][6][2]

Retirement as luthier[edit]

Nicola ceased being actively involved in violin manufacturing by the end of 1670.[6] Increasingly the handwork of his son, Hieronymus II, is seen on Amati instruments. Amati died on 12 April 1684, aged 87.

Personal life[edit]

A Nicola Amati violin dating from the 1640s

Amati married Lucrezia Pagliari (d. 26 November 1703) on 23 May 1645. His pupil, Andrea Guarneri, was present at the ceremony and signed the register.[21] Nicolo and Lucrezia had four sons and four daughters.[22] Their son Girolamo Amati (Hieronymus II, b. 1649; d. 1740) (known as Girolamo II) was the family's last luthier.[23][24]

Amati died on 12 April 1684, aged 87, in Cremona, Italy.[21]

Performers with Nicolo Amati instruments[edit]

Amati's instruments are very rare and most of them are on display in museums around the world.[25][26][27] Museums with his work on display, include the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Museo del Violino in Cremona and the Royal Academy of Music Museum in London.

However, there are a few performers who have played with Nicola instruments, Thomas Bowes plays a Nicola Amati violin,[28] and Chi-chi Nwanoku (OBE) plays an Amati double-bass.[29]

Instrument list[edit]

(From the Cozio Archive)[30]

See also: Amati Violas


  1. ^ "Amati Violin, the "King Louis XIV"". National Museum of American History. Archived from the original on 1 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b "From the Archive: a violin by Nicolo Amati, Cremona, 1660-70". The Strad. 22 February 2016. Archived from the original on 1 April 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Nicolò Amati". Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  4. ^ By Trecciani Archived 1 April 2018 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b Faber, Toby (2011). Stradivarius: Five Violins, One Cello and a Genius. London: Pan Macmillan. p. 22. ISBN 9780330475860.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Hargrave, Roger. "Nicola Amati & the 'Alard'". Roger Graham Hargrave – Violin Maker. Archived from the original on 22 September 2017.
  7. ^ Powers, Wendy. "Violin Makers: Nicolò Amati (1596–1684) and Antonio Stradivari (1644–1737)". The Met's Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Archived from the original on 20 December 2017.
  8. ^ Markwell, F. C. (1989). The A-Z Guide to Tracing Ancestors in Britain. Genealogical Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-8063-1252-1.
  9. ^ Henley, William (1973). The Universal Dictionary of Violin and Bow Makers. Brighton: Amati.
  10. ^ Bartruff, William. "The History of the Violin". Archived from the original on 8 February 2007. Retrieved 2 November 2006.
  11. ^ Wurlitzer, W. Henry Hill, Arthur F. Hill and Alfred E. Hill; with a new introduction by Sydney Beck and new supplementary indexes by Rembert (1963). Antonio Stradivari : his life and work, 1664-1737 (New Dover ed.). New York: Dover. pp. 28. ISBN 978-0486204253.
  12. ^ "Francesco Rugeri, Violin, 1660". Tarisio. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  13. ^ Chiesa, Carlo (December 2012). "In the Footsteps of a Master". The Strad: 52.
  14. ^ "Francesco Ruggieri". Ingles & Hayday. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  15. ^ Mauro, Bernabei; Jarno, Bontadi; Luigi, Sisto (1 August 2022). "Dendrochronological analysis of the Stradivari's harp". Dendrochronologia. 74: 125960. doi:10.1016/j.dendro.2022.125960. ISSN 1125-7865. S2CID 248648921.
  16. ^ Hill, W. H.; Hill, A. F.; Hill, A. E. (1963). Antonio Stradivari: His Life and Work. New York: Dover Publications. p. 26. ISBN 0-486-20425-1. Retrieved 15 January 2009. Alumnus Nicolais Amati.
  17. ^ Poulain, Yann (May 2018). "Geometrical Progression". The Strad. 129: 54–58.
  18. ^ Carlo Bergonzi: Alla scoperta di un grande Maestro by By Christopher Reuning
  19. ^ Wurlitzer, W. Henry Hill, Arthur F. Hill and Alfred E. Hill; with a new introduction by Sydney Beck and new supplementary indexes by Rembert (1963). Antonio Stradivari : his life and work, 1664-1737 (New Dover ed.). New York: Dover. pp. 27 and 31. ISBN 978-0486204253.
  20. ^ Chiesa, Carlo. "The life of Nicolò Amati, Part 2". Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  21. ^ a b Stainer, Cecie. "Biography of Nicolo Amati". Amati. Archived from the original on 1 April 2018.
  22. ^ "The life of Nicolò Amati, part 2". Tarisio.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  23. ^ "Girolamo Amati II". Tarisio. Archived from the original on 6 August 2016.
  24. ^ Stainer, Cecie. "Biography of Hieronymus Amati". Amati. Archived from the original on 1 October 2017.
  25. ^ "Work of Art – Violin 1669 Nicolò Amati". The Met's Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Archived from the original on 2 April 2018.
  26. ^ "Violin by Nicolo Amati, Cremona, 1662". Royal Academy of Music. Archived from the original on 1 January 2016.
  27. ^ "Nicolò Amati 1684 "Hammerle" violin". Google Cultural Institute. Archived from the original on 10 April 2018.
  28. ^ "Biography: Thomas Bowes". Retrieved 18 February 2012.
  29. ^ "Staff - Chi-chi Nwanoku". Royal Academy of Music. Retrieved 1 September 2018.
  30. ^ "Maker Profile". Tarisio. Retrieved 21 April 2021.

External links[edit]