Nicolo Amati was the son
Girolamo and grandson of
Andrea. He probably began taking an active role in the Amati workshop around
1610, and by the mid 1620s he was an accomplished master. Most of the
instruments bearing a Brothers Amati label but dated after the mid 1620s are
probably from the hand of Nicolo, since his father would have been in his
mid-60s at this time.
In 1630, Nicolo's father Girolamo perished in the plague, as did many other
violin makers, including Nicolo's main rival to the North,
Giovanni Paolo Maggini of
Brescia. At the same time, the demand for instruments of the violin family was
growing, and Nicolo -- still unmarried and childless -- was, for the first time
in the Amati family, forced take in outsiders as apprentices.
Starting in the early 1630s, Nicolo trained a succession of makers who would
go on to expand violin-making in Cremona and throughout Italy. These included
Andrea Guarneri, the first
of the Guarneri family of makers and
Giacomo Gennaro. While
there is no documentary evidence that either Francesco Ruggieri or Antonio
Stradivari worked in the Amati shop, it's clear that they studied Nicolo's
instruments intently and attempted to duplicate his models and working methods.
The same can be said of Jacob
Stainer in Absam.
Finally in 1649, at the age of 54, Nicolo sired his first son, whom he named
Girolamo in honor of his father. When Nicolo died in 1684, at the age of 88,
Girolamo II inherited the
shop and attempted to maintain the Amati supremacy, but with much less success
than his ancestors.
Nicolo is considered by many to be one of the finest craftsmen in the history
of violin making. Virtually all of his instruments are made with unerring
precision and attention to detail. Nicolo is also famous for introducing the
so-called 'Grand Pattern' violin, slightly larger than the models
designed by his father and grandfather. Today, these larger instruments,
measuring about 35.6 cm. in body length, are particularly well-regarded
by professional violinists because they produce a larger sound, more suited to
modern concert halls, than the smaller models, which are still ideal for small
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