18 December: Antonio Stradivari died on this day in 1737

Antonio Stradivari’s early violins were called “amatizzati” but that had nothing to do with the Italian word for love, “amore”; it was simply that at the time he was apprenticed to master luthier Nicola Amati. It was only when the latter died that Antonio was able to sign his violins with the famous “Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis Faciebat” which is, to this day, a sign of their preciousness.

Talking about love, Mozart’s own affections for the violin were somewhat ambiguous. It was the instrument his father played but the relationship between the two of them wasn’t exactly idyllic. In his “Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra”, the viola is tuned a semitone higher leaving the violin to play in flat (a semitone lower); this, perhaps, speaks for itself, over and above any rational explanation.

And, fast-forward to the 1920s, what can one say about when Man Ray transformed his beloved Kiki’s body into a violin by drawing on the curvy French model’s back a pair of ‘f-holes’, i.e. the soundholes that Stradivari cut into the front of his violins? Love did have something to do with this: Man Ray’s photograph is entitled “Ingres’s Violin” as it seems that the eponymous painter adored this musical instrument. After all, ambiguity was the hallmark of Surrealism, a movement that continues to fascinate precisely because it isn’t straight – just like the French curves that our own violin is made of.

Name Day
St Malachy, Prophet