Dear all violin enthusiasts,
I have been passionate about violins since the day I started playing.
For me, this goes hand in hand, since the sound you want to project is deeply connected to your choice of instrument.
Ever since I was a child, I searched through my father’s library and collected photos of instruments, placing them in various folders, marked with the designated violin maker.
One maker attracted my attention from the very beginning: Giuseppe Bartolomeo Guarneri, also know as del Gesu. I was particularly fascinated with the creativity he exhibited throughout his life. His neverending search for something new and innovative inspired me.
But, enough about me.
This website was created for 2 reasons:
First, I wanted to present a full archive of all the divine work del Gesu produced. Contrary to popular opinion, he was and is not only equal to Antonio Stradivari, but in my opinion, superior. From a violinist’s perspective, he produced the most incredible sounding violins.
It is often suggested that he used lesser-quality wood than Stradivari, but could not be further from the truth.Perhaps the way he created an instrument led to this incorrect assumption. If you look closely at del Gesu’s wood choice, it is always of the finest quality, visually and tonally.
My second reason for creating this site is that there is currently no full chronological anthology of his work, especially with respect to his early years. For many experts, del Gesu’s work seems to start at the age 27, circa 1725. However, if we look closer, it is very clear that he produced many violins prior to this time, which have been, in my opinion, falsely dated forward. It was unfortunately common practice in the 19th century to exchange an early original label, for a later dated one, in order to drive up the value of “a late” del Gesu.
Even in those days, violins of Stradivari and Guarneri were copied in the thousands, or the original labels were manipulated to maximize profits. Sadly, this is why so few original labels survived.
I have created this site to showcase an alternative chronological order, which makes more sense, in my humble opinion. I want to start by putting del Gesus life in five periods:
White “ 1721-1725 ( del Gesu’s first independent violins)
Yellow 1726-1730 ( finding a first characteristic model )
Orange 1730-1732 ( transition to the typical Guarneri model)
Red 1732-1739 ( the famous Guarneri Model)
Black 1740 to 1744 ( after the death of his father, absolute freedom in his design, focusing on tonal aspects, rather than details)
If we think of an early del Gesu model, the first model that springs to mind is the very strict upright f-holes. Good examples exist in the Rappoldi, Lenau, Samsung, Hart.
This is a very clear choice of a specific way of cutting the f-hole, and quite a large number of violins follows this particular model. ( slight variations may occur of course)
But, there is also a different “early” model, where the corners are much longer, and the purfling is not cut as deep. The craftsmanship, the corners, the wood choice, is still miles away from the so-called “typical” early del Gesu model.
Yet, those instruments are also placed into the same period. 1725-1729!
There is no possible way that a violin maker would change his way of craftsmanship from one violin to another, or go back and forth!
This never made any sense to me.
Del Gesu was very clear in his choices, and even if he did change the f holes in all periods from instrument to instrument, later increasingly radical – looking at his earlier body of work, he did stay true to a model, while developing it of course.
The simple conclusion: we are missing one period in his life: The period from 1721 to 1725.
Now, we need to look at the violins we are certain are dated correctly, with an original label, and work ourselves backwards.
One great example working backwards is the 1730 Kreisler.
The model is just in the middle between the straight F-holes of the “Hart” del Gesu, yet we can witness a transition into the famous Guarneri model.
Logically, the model prior to 1730 must have been the very strict upright f-holes (as is partly still visual in the Kreisler). Another great example is the Kubelik, von Vecsey from 1728. It bears the only surviving early label.
Interestingly, del Gesu refers in this label to his Grandfather Andrea Guarneri, and not his Father, who was his teacher in violin making after all!
But that is just a side note, to be discussed at a later time.
In this 1728, we see all the components of the model, which is typical for that period 1725-1730.
But what about the “other” early del Gesu which have a very distinct, yet different look?
E.g. Zimmerman, Count de Viere-Cheremetieff, Frank?
As Del Gesu was born in 1698, he was already working as a teenager in his father’s shop.
It was very common to establish your own workshop by the time you were 18.
Del Gesu’s brother, Petrus, even decided to leave Cremona for Venice at an early age, to open his own workshop there.
del Gesu moved out of his fathers house in 1721, there are at least 4 years which are unaccounted for.
There is the theory that Del Gesu did not make violins in this period, but these instruments are proof that he did have a workshop separate from his father’s, and produced violins.
I do hope that through the attempt to create a chronological collection of photographs, this website will showcase my theory a bit better.
The last 3 periods, orange, red and black are mostly correctly listed in the history, with a few small mistakes, again, from my perspective
Through framing del Gesu’s instruments by period I have tried to find a fluid way in Guarneri’s work transitions, which allows for a more correct chronology.
I hope that every violin enthusiast will enjoy my attempt on the first full del Gesu collection, and I would like to use this opportunity to thank all my violin dealer friends all around the world for providing me with photographs I could not find in the historic books or online.
Thank you for making this project possible.
PS: This website is of course a bit of a “work in progress”. I do apologize for many violins being only shown in a low resolution quality. I hope that in time I will be able to collect better photos, violin for violin, update this website bit for bit, to make this experience even more fun. Any emails with better photos are of course always appreciated!
I would also like to thank my friends at Tarisio for allowing me to use many photographs from the Cozio Archive.
Thank you very much for your support!