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Mayra Calvani

Question about violin cases in the time of Stradivari

February 21, 2010 at 8:01 PM

Hi all,

I have a question. How were violin cases during the time of Stradivari? I haven't been able to find any drawings or pictures online.

I need the information for one of my upcoming children's picture books--that is, I need to send the info to the illustrator.

I'm guessing they were black leather on the outside and perhaps velvet or cloth on the inside, and that they weren't square like today but had the shape of the violin. Am I correct?

Thanks in advance!




From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on February 22, 2010 at 1:47 AM

Either Strings Magazine or The Strad had an article about exactly this within the last year or less.  Try their websites.  They were actually wooden. 

From Mayra Calvani
Posted on February 22, 2010 at 6:14 AM

Thanks! I'll check them out.

Posted on February 22, 2010 at 10:45 AM

What we know, from drawings left from Stradivari's shop, is that they made cases in their workshop, since there are drawings for case's locks and tools for working leather for cases.

If you have the Hill's book on Stradivari they have a drawing of Stradivari case (possibly made by Strad).

My friend Glenn Wood is a violin case specilist:, he even published a book on the subject:

From Annie Girard
Posted on February 22, 2010 at 6:41 PM

I don't really have the time to find it back, but about a year ago, there was a link about that on the Musafia Italia site. I can't seem to find it back, though. The site has changed. You might want to contact Mr. Musafia.

The link was to a foundation in  the City of Cremona linked with Stradivarius and the Cremona school of  violinmaking. Mr. Musafia Sr. had been asked to make a case for a Strad belonging to the Foundation, that was to be played by Salvatore Accardo in relation to an activity of this foundation. There were two photo pictures an actual violin case made by Stradivari (his workshop, I suppose), held at the museum of the city of Cremona. All this was in collaboration with the Cremona violin making school. Here is city of Cremona's museum: They say they have a lot of things from Stradivari's workshop. You might be able to get that picture from them. The site is in Italian only, though.

The case seemed a very strange object. It was made from a hollowed-out piece of wood. Instead of opening with the violin laying down in a horizontal position, as all modern cases do, it was to be held with the violin standing up. The top part covered the neck and head and the case opened approximately at the shoulder level. Kind of like a violin-shaped, standing sarcophagus that would open at the upper  third, like a cigar tube. It seemed lined with some kind of fabric simply glued to the wood. It looked very rough and hard inside.

I was wincing thinking how delicate and precious violins made by Signore Stradivari were knocked about, being carried in these rough cases. I felt the edges must have been simply eroded, filed away by this rough-looking inside. But maybe the instrument was wrapped and cushioned inside of the case with a softer piece of fabric. Or a lamb's fleece. It must be so, otherwise it would be almost a miracle so many Strads survived the ordeal.

But the case itself seemed very strong. It certainly looked sturdy enough to witstand traveling, even by foot, from city to city by any minestrel of the Renaissance era.

So, then, I guess Signore Stradivari must have been a very practical gentleman, who made the most precise violins, with the best sound possible, and the sturdiest cases, that could get through rain and hail, all adapted to the working musicians of his day.

Good Luck to you!

From Mayra Calvani
Posted on February 22, 2010 at 7:27 PM

This is all so helpful, guys! Thanks so much! I'm off to check those links.



Posted on February 23, 2010 at 1:08 AM

Marquis Carbonelli was contemporary to Stradivari, he was a Stradivari client, he comissioned instruments from Cremona, Venice and Mantova.  He had instruments sufficient to a small orchestra. His inventory was made in 1740. It seems the decorated violin known as "The Rode" was made for him. The inventory lists 22 precious violins, 8 violas (including Gambas, that is, viols), 3 celli, clavicembali, etc.
The descriptions are like this:
"two violins by Signor Antonio Stradivario Cremonese, one of the year 1723, and the other of 1726, with their double case covered in yellow Moroccan leather with brass latches, marked number 1.
"two violins with theis case covered in read leather, one by antonio and Girolamo Brothers Amati of the year 1614 and the other by Nicolò Amati of 1643,
"Two violins in a case covered in red leather, one by Antonio Stradivario...
"Two violins in a case covered in black leather, one by Antonio Stradivari...
"Two violins in a case covered in red leather with brass latches, boty by Nicolò Amati...,
Two violins in a rose colored case, one by Antonio Stradivari of 1702 and the other by Pietro Guarneri of said year 1702...
two violins in a case lateched with brass, covered in red leather, both by Stradivari,
A violin by Stradivari of the year 1715, with its case covered in black leather, with brass latches,
Two violins, one by Stradivari... in a case covered in yellow leather
The text in Italian mentions "due violini del Sig. lAntonio Stradivario Cremonese, uno dell'anno 1723 e l'atro del 1726, con sua Casseta da due violini....
This "con sua Casseta da due violini" (with its double case) may indicate that the two violins belonged to that case, this is one of the possibilities of the translation of "con sua casseta". Other instruments are not mentioned with "sua casseta", indicating, perhaps, that they had a "different" case. 
Other violin is again described as
"A violin by Stradivari of the year 1715 with its case coverd in black leather with brass latches...". In other ocasions instruments are mentioned "in a case", instead of "its case". This inventory is in the book THE STRAD LEGACY.

From Larry Samuels
Posted on February 23, 2010 at 6:47 AM

Glenn Wood, mentioned above as the author of a book on violin cases, has put up a video on YouTube of the case he describes in his book, ascribed to Stradivari's workshop:

(He also has a video of a gorgeous Hill case.)

I recommend his book if you're interested in cases.


Larry S.


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