|Died||18 December 1737 (aged 92–93)|
|Education||Apprenticeship with Nicolò Amati|
|Spouse||1. Francesca Feraboschi
2. Zambelli Costa
Stradivari's ancestry consisted of notable citizens of Cremona, dating back to at least the 12th or 13th century. The earliest mention of the family name, or a variation upon it, is in a land grant dating from 1188. The origin of the name itself has several possible explanations; some sources say it is the plural of Stradivare, essentially meaning "toll-man" in a Lombard variety of Italian, while others say that the form "de Strataverta" derives from "Strada averta", which, in a Cremonese dialect of Italian, means "open road".
Antonio's parents were Alessandro Stradivari, son of Giulio Cesare Stradivari, and Anna Moroni, daughter of Leonardo Moroni. They married on 30 August 1622, and had at least 3 children between 1623 and 1628: Giuseppe Giulio Cesare, Carlo Felice, and Giovanni Battista. The baptismal records of the Parish of S. Prospero then stop, and it is unknown whether they had any children from 1628 to 1644 This blank in the records may be due to the family leaving Cremona in response to war, famine, and plague in the city from 1628 to 1630, or the records may have been lost due to clerical reforms imposed by Joseph II of Austria in 1788.The latter explanation is supported by the word Cremonensis (of Cremona) on many of Stradivari's labels, which suggests that he was born in the city instead of merely moving back there to work. He was born in 1644, a fact deducible from later violins. However, there are no records or information available on his early childhood, and the first evidence of his presence in Cremona is the label of his oldest surviving violin from 1666
Stradivari likely began an apprenticeship with Nicolò Amati between the ages of 12 and 14, although a minor debate surrounds this fact. One of the only pieces of evidence supporting this is the label of his 1666 violin, which reads, "Alumnus Nicolai Amati, faciebat anno 1666". However, Stradivari did not repeatedly put Amati's name on his labels, unlike many of his other students. Stradivari's early violins actually bear less of a resemblance to those of Amati than his later instruments do. M. Chanot-Chardon, a well-known French luthier, asserted that his father had a label of Stradivari's stating, "Made at the age of thirteen, in the workship of Nicolò Amati". This label has never been found or confirmed. Amati would also have been a logical choice for Antonio's parents, as he represented an old family of violin makers in Cremona, and was far superior to most other luthiers in Italy.
An alternative theory is that Stradivari started out as a woodworker: the house he lived in from 1667 to 1680 was owned by Francesco Pescaroli, a woodcarver and inlayer. Stradivari may even have been employed to decorate some of Amati's instruments, without being a true apprentice. This theory is supported by some of Stradivari's later violins, which have elaborate decorations and purfling
Assuming that Stradivari was a student of Amati, he would have begun his apprenticeship in 1656–58 and produced his first decent instruments in 1660, at the age of 16. His first labels were printed from 1660 to 1665, which indicates that his work had reached a quality sufficiently high enough for him to offer it directly to his patrons. However, he probably stayed in Amati's workshop until about 1684, so as to use his master's reputation as a launching point for his career.
"Golden" period and later yearsIn the early 1690s, Stradivari made a pronounced departure from this earlier style of instrument-making, changing two key elements of his instruments. First, he began to make violins with a larger pattern than previous instruments, which are usually dubbed "Long Strads". He also switched to using a darker, richer varnish, as opposed to a yellower varnish similar to that used by Amati He continued to use this pattern until 1698, with few exceptions. After 1698, he abandoned the Long Strad model and returned to a slightly shorter model, which he used until his death. The period from 1700 until the 1720s is often termed the "golden period" of his production. Instruments made during this time are usually considered of a higher quality than his earlier instruments. Late-period instruments made from the late 1720s until his death in 1737 show signs of Stradivari's advancing age. These late instruments may be a bit less beautiful than the Golden Period instruments, but many nonetheless possess a fine tone.
Stradivari married his second wife, Zambelli Costa, on 24 August 1699. They had five children from 1700 to 1708—Francesca Maria, Giovanni Battista Giuseppe, Giovanni Battista Martino, Giuseppe Antonio, and Paolo. Stradivari died on 18 December 1737. He is buried in the Church of San Domenico
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