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date: 21 February 2020

Guarneri familylocked

  • Charles Beare
  • , revised by Carlo Chiesa
  •  and Duane Rosengard


Italian family of violin makers.

(b Casalbuttano, July 13, 1623; d Cremona, Dec 7, 1698). Son of Bartolomeo Guarneri, he was an apprentice in the house of Nicolò Amati from 1641 to 1646, and thus inherited the Amati principles of violin design and construction. In 1646 he left the Amati household, but returned in 1650 for a further four years. In 1652 he married Anna Maria Orcelli, the sister of a fine violinist. In 1654 Andrea and his wife left Amati’s house to live in the house his wife received as part of her dowry, later to be known (with the next-door house) as the Casa Guarneri. Of their seven children, two of the sons, (2) Pietro Giovanni Guarneri and (3) Giuseppe Giovanni Battista (‘filius Andreae’) Guarneri, were to become violin makers.

Andrea’s distinctive hand is recognizable in a few of Nicolò Amati’s violins. His early complete instruments are usually on the ‘Grand Amati’ pattern, but his work never quite attained the elegance of his master’s. In fact the Guarneri character was apparent from the first: here and there a noticeable lack of symmetry, a little extra scoop at the purfling, and a roughness of finish, especially in the scroll. Often the mitres of the purfling point across the corners instead of into them, a unique feature. Once established on his own, working, according to his labels, ‘sub titulo Sanctae Teresiae’, Andrea Guarneri generally used a compact model of good dimensions. These violins are very highly regarded. Later he relied more and more upon the help of his sons, especially Giuseppe, and the character of the work is variable. Certain violins have a narrow, pinched look, made perhaps in response to the growing popularity of Stainer’s style of making. Andrea made several splendid smaller violas, well ahead of their time, one of which was played by William Primrose. He was also among the first to make a smaller cello, technically more easily managed than the very large instruments of the Amatis....

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