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David Gusset Studio
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1611 Lincoln Street
Eugene, Oregon, USA
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FAMILY IN ITALY
violin, cello, viola, David Gusset, David Gussett, violoncello, stringed instruments,Stradivari, Stradivarius, Cremona, Guarneri, Guarnerius, instrument maker, history, Italian, Amati,AFVBM, violin varnish, design, luthier, making
Amati, Stradivari and Guarneri, whose names have become practically synonymous with the word violin, lived and worked in Cremona Italy in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Their works represented the highest achievements of a cultural and artistic heritage--a cumulative total of knowledge brought forth by generations of artists, craftsmen, scientists, mathematicians and musical instrument makers of Renaissance Italy.
During the 16th century, the northern Italian cities of Cremona, Brescia and Venice were all active centers of stringed instrument making. Cremona had the greatest influence in the early development of the violin. Andrea Amati (born before 1511, died December 24th[?], 1577) of Cremona was most likely the originator of the violin and its family. The oldest surviving instruments of Andrea Amati date from 1564 and were part of a set of decorated instruments (bearing elaborate painted and gilded scenes, symbols and fleur-de-lys) commissioned by Charles IX of France. Of the set, only eight survive. The others were lost or destroyed during the French Revolution.
The Cremonese tradition was carried on by Andrea's two sons Antonio (c. 1540-February 1607) and Girolamo (1561-1630), known as the Brothers Amati. Girolamo's son Nicola (1596-1684) was the only Cremonese violin maker to have survived the famine of 1628 and the plague which swept through Cremona two years later. By 1632 the plague reached the city of Brescia taking the life of the violin maker, Giovanni Paolo Maggini. Being the sole survivor of a violin making tradition, the task of carrying on that tradition then fell to Nicola, and he proved himself to be most able. During his lifetime he produced some of the most beautiful violins ever made and has come to be regarded as the best maker of the Amati family. Nicola also disseminated his knowledge and skills to his many pupils including Francesco Rugeri (1620-c.1695) and Andrea Guarneri (c. 1626-1698, patriarch of the Guarneri family of violin makers) and his own son Girolamo II (1649-1740). Other pupils of his may have included Giovanni Battista Rogeri, possibly Jakob Stainer (c. 1617-1683) and more than likely, Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737).
Adverse economic and political circumstances had an affect on the Cremonese makers as early as the 1730s and marked the beginning of a steady decline in the art. The end of the noblest era of Italian violin making came sometime around the late 18th century. The last of the Cremonese makers' works were turned out with ever greater haste. The instruments of Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu (1698-1744), grandson of Andrea Guarneri, exemplify this trend. Over a relatively short lifetime, the visual/aesthetic refinery of his earlier work gave way to increasingly erratic--some say capricious--workmanship in his last few years. Despite his hurried approach to detail in his later works, he managed to retain his magnificent varnish and to stay true to his architectural and tonal ideals. His violins along with the numerous instruments of Stradivari are today the most valued and sought after by concert artists and collectors for their sonorous qualities.