The early life of Antonio Stradivari has long been debated by historians, if for any other reason than the fact that there aren’t many official documents available from the time of his birth. Depending on who you ask, his birth year can be anywhere from 1644 to 1649, although most now accept 1644 as the year he was born. What is better known, however, is that Antonio Stradivari produced a family of Italian violin makers that followed in his esteemed footsteps as well as his signature style.
The Stradivari style of violin making is what set his instruments apart from others. Stradivari was the first to introduce the more modern form of the violin bridge and he fundamentally changed the instrument’s proportions, giving it a shallower body that produced a more powerful and resonating tone than earlier violins.
From the wood that he used to the varnish he applied to protect and give lasting beauty to his pieces; much has been debated about what really gave his instruments such clarity of tone. Modern research suggests that the Strad’s brilliant sound comes from the density of the wood used and the thickness of its wooden top and back plates. The condition of the microscopic pores within the wood of the violin have also been associated with the instrument’s sound quality, as is the formula of Stradivari’s unique varnish, which included chemicals to protect the wood from fungi and woodworms.
Who Were Antonio Stradivari's Parents?
Antonio Stradivari's ancestry consisted of notable citizens of Cremona, dating as far back as the 12th or 13th century. His parents were Alessandro Stradivari, son of Giulio Cesare Stradivari, and Anna Moroni, daughter of Leonardo Moroni. They married on August 30, 1622. According to the baptismal records of the parish of S. Prospero, his parents would wind up having at least three children between 1623 and 1628: Giuseppe Giulia Cesare, Carlo Felice, and Giovanni Battista.
But then the parish’s baptismal records for the family stop for reasons unknown. Many believe that the gap was caused by the family being forced to leave Cremona due to the war, famine, and plague that enveloped in the city from 1628 to 1630. Others believe that the records were simply lost during the clerical reforms that were imposed by Joseph II of Austria in 1788. This latter explanation is somewhat supported by the word “Cremonensis,” which translates to “of Cremona,” which is included on many of Stradivari's labels. This word suggests that he was born in the city. According to historians, Antonio was most likely born in 1644, a fact that has since been deduced from his later violins.
Who Were Antonio Stradivari’s Children?
In 1667, Antonio Stradivari married Francesca Feraboschi, and soon after he would set up his own household and shop. The couple had six children together – Giulia Maria, Catterina, Francesco, Alessandro, and Omobono, as well as an infant son who lived for only a week.
Francesca died on May 20, 1699, and on August 24 of that same year, Antonio would marry his second wife, Antonia Maria Zambelli. From 1700 to 1708, the couple would have five children – Francesca Maria, Giovanni Battista Giuseppe, Giovanni Battista Martino, Giuseppe Antonio, and Paolo.
Of his ten surviving children, only Francesco and Omobono, and quite possibly a third son, would follow in their father's footsteps as violin makers. In fact, it is believed that Stradivari’s sons, along with Italian luthier Carlo Bergonzi, played an active part in Stradivari’s ability to produce more than 1,100 instruments in his lifetime.