Stradivarius is one of the violins, violas, cellos and other string
instruments built by members of the Italian family Stradivari,
Antonio Stradivari (Latin: Antonius Stradivarius), during
the 17th and 18th centuries. According to their reputation, the
quality of their sound has defied attempts to explain or equal it,
though this belief is disputed. The fame of Stradivarius
instruments is widespread, appearing in numerous works of fiction.
2 Market value
3 Comparisons in sound quality
4 Theories and reproduction attempts
5 Violins bearing the Stradivari label
6 Stradivari instruments
7 Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
9 Further reading
10 External links
The wood used included spruce for the top, willow for the internal
blocks and linings, and maple for the back, ribs, and neck. There has
been conjecture that this wood was treated with several types of
minerals, including potassium borate (borax), sodium and potassium
silicate, and vernice bianca, a varnish composed of gum arabic, honey,
and egg white. Stradivari made his instruments using an inner form,
unlike the French copyists, such as Vuillaume, who employed an outer
form. It is clear from the number of forms throughout his career that
he experimented with some of the dimensions of his instruments.
A comparative study published in
PLOS ONE in 2008 found no
significant differences in median densities between modern and
classical violins, or between classical violins from different
origins; instead the survey of several modern and classical examples
of violins highlighted a notable distinction when comparing density
differentials. These results suggest that differences in density
differentials in the material may have played a significant role in
the sound production of classical violins. A later survey, focused on
comparing median densities in both classical and modern violin
examples, questioned the role available materials may have played in
sound production differences, though it made no comment on variations
in density differentials. The content of copper and aluminium is
higher than current instruments.
Antonio Stradivari violin of 1703 on exhibit, behind glass, at the
Musikinstrumentenmuseum (Berlin Musical Instrument Museum), 2006
Stradivarius made in the 1680s, or during Stradivari's "Long
Pattern" period from 1690 to 1700, could be worth hundreds of
thousands to several million U.S. dollars at today's prices. The
1697 "Molitor" Stradivarius, once rumored to have belonged to
Napoleon (it did belong to a general in his army, Count Gabriel Jean
Joseph Molitor), sold in 2010 at
Tarisio Auctions to violinist Anne
Akiko Meyers for $3,600,000, at the time a world record.
Depending on condition, instruments made during Stradivari's "golden
period" from 1700 to about 1725 can be worth millions of dollars.
In 2011, his "Lady Blunt" violin from 1721, which is in pristine
condition, was sold in London for $15.9 million (it is named after
Lord Byron's granddaughter Lady Anne Blunt, who owned it for 30
years). It was sold by the Nippon Music Foundation in aid of the
Japanese earthquake and tsunami appeal. In Spring 2014 the
"Macdonald" viola was put up for auction through the musical
instrument auction house Ingles & Hayday in conjunction with
Sotheby's via silent auction with a minimum bid of $45 million.
The auction failed to reach its minimum bid by 25 June 2014, and
the viola was not sold.
Vice magazine reported in May 2013 that "in recent years, Stradivarius
investment funds have started to appear, pushing already astronomical
prices even higher".
Stradivarius instruments are at risk of theft. Stolen instruments are
often recovered, however, even after being missing for many years.
They are difficult to sell illicitly as dealers will typically call
the police if approached by a seller with a
Stradivarius known to have
been stolen. In recent years, the
General Kyd Stradivarius was
stolen in 2004. It was returned three weeks later by a woman who
'found it' and handed it over to the police. The
Sinsheimer/Iselin was stolen in
Hanover, Germany in 2008 and recovered
in 2009. the
Lipinski Stradivarius was stolen in an armed robbery
on 27 January 2014 and subsequently recovered. The Ames
Stradivarius was stolen in 1981 and recovered in 2015.
A number of stolen instruments remain missing, such as the
Davidoff-Morini, stolen in 1995, the Le Maurien, stolen in
2002, and the Karpilowsky, stolen in 1953.
Comparisons in sound quality
Above all, these instruments are famous for the quality of sound they
produce. However, the many blind experiments from 1817 to the
present (as of 2014) have never found any difference in sound
between Stradivari's violins and high-quality violins in comparable
style of other makers and periods, nor has acoustic analysis.
In a particularly famous test on a
BBC Radio 3
BBC Radio 3 programme in 1977, the
Isaac Stern and
Pinchas Zukerman and the violin expert and
Charles Beare tried to distinguish between the "Chaconne"
Stradivarius, a 1739
Guarneri del Gesú, an 1846 Vuillaume, and a 1976
British violin played behind a screen by a professional soloist. The
two violinists were allowed to play all the instruments first. None of
the listeners identified more than two of the four instruments. Two of
the listeners identified the 20th-century violin as the
Stradivarius. Violinists and others have criticized these tests on
various grounds such as that they are not double-blind (in most
cases), the judges are often not experts, and the sounds of violins
are hard to evaluate objectively and reproducibly.
In a test in 2009, the British violinist Matthew Trusler played his
1711 Stradivarius, said to be worth two million U.S. dollars, and four
modern violins made by the Swiss violin-maker Michael
Rhonheimer (de). One of Rhonheimer's violins, made with wood that
the Empa (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and
Technology) researcher Francis Schwarze had treated with fungi,
received 90 of the 180 votes for the best tone, while the Stradivarius
came second with 39 votes. The majority (113) of the listeners
misidentified the winning violin as the Stradivarius.
In a double-blind test in 2012 published in the study "Player
preferences among new and old violins", expert players could not
distinguish old from new instruments by playing them for a short time
in a small room. In an additional test, performed in a concert
hall, one of the
Stradivarius violins placed first, but one of the
participants stated that "the audience in the concert hall were
essentially equivocal on which instruments were better in each of the
pair-wise instrument comparisons" and "I could tell slight differences
in the instruments...but overall they were all great. None of them
sounded substantially weaker than the others" 
While many world-class soloists play violins by Antonio Stradivari,
there are notable exceptions. For example,
Christian Tetzlaff formerly
played "a quite famous Strad", but switched to a violin made in 2002
by Stefan-Peter Greiner. He states that the listener cannot tell that
his instrument is modern, and he regards it as excellent for Bach and
better than a
Stradivarius for "the big Romantic and 20th-century
Theories and reproduction attempts
Some maintain that the very best Stradivari have unique
superiorities. Various attempts at explaining these supposed
qualities have been undertaken, most results being unsuccessful or
inconclusive. Over the centuries, numerous theories have been
presented – and debunked – including an assertion that the wood
was salvaged from old cathedrals. Dendrochronology, or tree-ring
dating, has proved this false.
A more modern theory attributes tree growth during a time of global
cold temperatures during the
Little Ice Age
Little Ice Age associated with unusually
low solar activity of the Maunder Minimum, circa 1645 to 1750, during
which cooler temperatures throughout Europe are believed to have
caused stunted and slowed tree growth, resulting in unusually dense
wood. Further evidence for this "
Little Ice Age
Little Ice Age theory" comes from
a simple examination of the dense growth rings in the wood used in
Stradivari's instruments. Two researchers – University of
Tennessee tree-ring scientist
Henri Grissino-Mayer and Lloyd Burckle,
a Columbia University climatologist – published their conclusions
supporting the theory on increased wood density in the journal
In 2008, researchers from the
Leiden University Medical Center
Leiden University Medical Center in the
Netherlands, announced further evidence that wood density caused the
claimed high quality of these instruments. After examining the violins
with X-rays, the researchers found that these violins all have
extremely consistent density, with relatively low variation in the
apparent growth patterns of the trees that produced this wood.
Yet another possible explanation is that the wood was sourced from the
forests of northern Croatia. This maple wood is known for its
extreme density resulting from the slow growth caused by harsh
Croatian winters. Croatian wood was traded by Venetian merchants of
the era, and is still used today by local luthiers and craftsfolk for
Some research points to wood preservatives used in that day as
contributing to the resonant qualities. Joseph Nagyvary
reveals that he has always held the belief that there are a wide range
of chemicals that will improve the violin's sound. In a 2009 study
co-authored with Renald Guillemette and Clifford Spiegelman, Nagyvary
obtained shavings from a
Stradivarius violin and examined them, and
analysis indicated they contained "borax, fluorides, chromium and iron
salts." He also found that the wood had decayed a little, to the
extent that the filter plates in the pores between the wood's
component tracheids had rotted away, perhaps while the wood was stored
in or under water in the
Venice lagoon before
Stradivarius used it.
Steven Sirr, a radiologist, worked with researchers to perform a CT
scan of a Stradivari known as the "Betts." Data regarding the
differing densities of woods used were then used to create a
Violins bearing the Stradivari label
While only about 650 original Stradivari instruments (harps, guitars,
violas, cellos, violins) survive, thousands of violins have been made
in tribute to Stradivari, copying his model and bearing labels that
read "Stradivarius" on them. The presence of a
Stradivarius label does
not confirm that the instrument is a genuine work of Stradivari.
Main article: List of
Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
"Gould" violin (1693)
"Francesca" violin (1694)
"Antonius" violin (1711)
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^ Christopher Joyce (2012). "Double-Blind
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Violin Forms of
Antonio Stradivari by Stewart Pollens, Biddulph
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Violin Price". Retrieved 2017-06-13.
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^ Ashley Luthern (2014-02-06). "Stolen
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^ A guitar-like violin made by the naval engineer François Chanot, a
member of a family of luthiers. A committee of scientists and
musicians, listening to the violins played in an adjacent room, judged
Chanot's violin to be at least as good as the Stradivarius, but
apparently Chanot's instruments quickly lost their good qualities.
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^ Analysis of the treated wood revealed a reduction in density,
accompanied by relatively little change in the speed of sound.
According to this analysis, treatment improves the sound radiation
ratio to the level of cold-climate wood considered to have superior
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substitute for cold climate". Wiley Interscience. Retrieved
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Stradivarius.
A FourDoc (short on-line documentary) about a group of violin makers
making a violin in the original spec of the maurin
just five days
What makes a
Stradivarius so Great?
Carleen Hutchins obituary, today's master violin maker who tried to
Stradivarius Los Angeles Times, August 18, 2009
Cozio.com Online database of instruments by Antonio Stradivari.
Antonio Stradivari on the MIMO online database, website
Cheniston K. Roland, Discography (incomplete) of Stradivarius
Mark Levine, "Medici of the Meadowlands",
The New York Times
The New York Times 3 August
2003 Herbert R. Axelrod's Stravarius collection.
Chladni patterns for visualizing violin plate resonance patterns
Violin Forms A detailed study of Stradivari's molds and
drawings kept in the Cremona Museum..
How Stradivari and
Guarneri got their music discusses the chemical
techniques used to figure out what makes these instruments' unique
sound. From the February 1, 2007 issue of Analytical Chemistry
Gough, Colin (April 2000). "Science and the Stradivarius". Physics
Web. Institute of Physics Publishing. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
Grovier, Kelly (22 August 2004). "Biography of Antonio Stradivari".
The Observer. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
Hanscom, Michael (9 December 2003). "Stradivarius' Secret".
Eclecticism. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
"The Case of the Missing Stradivarius," an annotated historical novel
by author Emanuel E. Garcia which investigates the secrets of
Stradivari violins and musical virtuosity.
" The Violins of Stradivarius" by the Hill Family on the Amati
Five string violin
Tenor violin/Tenor viola
Cello da spalla
Scordatura (changing string tuning)
and genres of music
Double bass concerto
Violin musical styles