OriginsIt is amazing to consider that the violin was produced, in it's near final form, about 1555. The strongest evidence suggests Andre Amati was the the first violin maker. There were certainly many other stringed instruments before the invention of the violin, beginning with the very first bowed stringed instruments originating from Central Asia.
Most inventions are refined and improved, sometimes to the point that the contemporary versions barely resemble the originals. This is not so with the violin. Other than some modifications to accommodate modern music styles, the violin remains the same as it was in the late 16th century. Many violins are now made from the same materials, using the same methods as the original makers. Countless modifications have been tried over the centuries, but the finest modern violins share the same characteristics with those made over 400 years ago.
The Amati FamilyAndre Amati was the progenitor of the Amati family of violin makers, whose influence lasted throughout the Golden Age of violin making. Other makers of the time include Gasparo da Salo and Giovanni Maggini.
In 1630 bubonic plague struck southern Europe, killing 25% of the population with some cities in Northern Italy losing over half of their populations. This pandemic killed many of the makers of the Amati School. Nicola Amati alone survived and thus became the bridge between the originators of the violin and the makers of the Golden Era.
The Golden Era
The Golden Era of violin making is considered to be from around 1650 to the death of Giovanni Guadagnini in 1786. During this period, practically all of the great makers were students of the Amati School including Antonio Stradivari, who was an apprentice of Nicola Amati.