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Reference Library Makers

Guarneri, Giuseppe Del Gesu

B. 1698, d. 1744, Cremona

Younger son and pupil of Giuseppe ‘filius Andreae’, and the most celebrated maker of the family. Broke with his father around 1720, and produced little until after 1726, when he began to make his way back into the profession. He developed his own style very rapidly, using Stradivarian archings and traditional Amati outlines. In about 1730 he opened his own workshop, and added the legend ‘IHS’ to his labels. This was probably the identifying sign of his shop, but as an acronym for ‘Jesus Saviour’ it led to his being dubbed ‘del Gesu’ in recent times, to distinguish him from his father. In the period 1733 to 1740 he was at the height of his powers as a craftsman, and his instruments are executed with a delicacy that belies their sonorous power. Many of these violins have heads made by his father. After the death of the elder Giuseppe in 1740, and the earlier passing of Antonio Stradivari in 1737, Guarneri’s work grew wilder, particularly in the improvised shapes of the heads, now made by del Gesu himself. As the instruments changed dramatically from the visual aspect, they continued to gain in tonal power all the time. In a burst of activity in the last two years of his life, he made some of the most extraordinary violins ever seen.

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