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Reference Library Articles

Fabrizio Senta

The early period of violin making in Turin is very interesting and not often considered. The great days of the late eighteenth and nineteenth century, of Pressenda and Rocca, have tended to overshadow the seventeenth century pioneers. The distinction between the two eras could not be more obvious; the two eras were fundamentally different and unconnected. The first makers in Turin in the early seventeenth century seem to have come from Fussen, bring with them a more northern European method, found in Germany, the Netherlands and even England in this period.

Fabrizio Senta embodies all the early characteristics of the school in the second half of the seventeenth century. Superficially Amatise, the work is also very controlled and craftsmanlike, and covered with a ruddy-brown, slightly opaque varnish of good quality. The arching tends to be high and a little narrow, but the 'f' holes well disposed and a little close to the edge. The striking thing about the outline is the long, outward projecting corners, and this provides the strongest clue to Senta's influences and origin. These corners are themselves determined by the long rib corners, which are drawn together and jointed centrally, rather than the neatly overlapping short mitre that is so characteristic of Cremonese work. These extended rib joints are a sure sign of what is often referred to as the 'Saxon' style of making, familiar from the vast numbers of cottage industry instruments made there in the nineteenth century. No mould was used, and the rib garland made 'in the air', on a board, or on the back itself. Some early Turin makers, including Senta himself, are known to have fitted the ribs into a slot cut around the inner edges of the back, a technique observed in old English and Dutch work also.

Another common feature of these 'northern European' instruments is the relatively large, open volutes of the scroll, usually matched to a contrastingly slender pegbox. here again, Senta is a good example. His scroll form is well cut, well rounded and with a delicate chamfer, but large in diameter, and winding to a small eye, with an extra quarter turn to the spiral behind it. This pattern is strongly reminiscent of English makers of the Pamphilon school. A very good and clear example of Senta's work is the cello which can be seen in the Cherubini Museum in Florence, which intriguingly echoes a similar instrument made by his contemporary Caspar Borbon in Brussels, now housed in the Music Museum there.

The slightly mysterious figure linking all these disparate makers may well be Enrico Catenar, a Fussen-born luthier who worked in the Netherlands and Turin at various points of the end of the seventeenth century. His influence reaches to Senta, his Turinese contemporary Andrea Gatto and thence to Cappa and beyond to Celoniatus, whose elegant but long-cornered model betrays its origin in the antiquated practices of the first makers of the Turin school.