Is it true that Paganini killed a woman, imprisoned her soul in his violin, and used parts of her intestines as an eternal source of gut for his strings

January 7, 2017 at 03:31 PM · Is this fact or fiction?

I came across this in a bio article. I also read that he killed three of his lovers.


No guys. I do not believe in soul or the devil and it is just gibberish to say that you can imprison someone's soul in your violin. However, it is widely believed that he killed three of his lovers and used their intestines to make gut strings. I just want to know the veracity of this statement.

I do know that he gave in to his two passions apart from music/violin - women and gambling -- to which he became addicted. But I am not sure if he really killed anyone.

Replies (65)

January 7, 2017 at 03:53 PM · That looks like the sort of "bio" article you might expect to find in some of the less reputable tabloids on a particularly bad news day!

I think this may indicate the direction in which the answer to Gautam's question is going ;)

January 7, 2017 at 03:54 PM · Absolutely. I've also heard that the Cannone eats a bit of your soul each time you play it.

January 7, 2017 at 04:01 PM · Yes, but he did those things after he sold his own soul to the devil, so by that time it didn't matter any more.

January 7, 2017 at 04:02 PM · It's probably true, yeah.

January 7, 2017 at 04:19 PM · No, it's not true.

January 7, 2017 at 04:35 PM · In case this is a serious question: no.

January 7, 2017 at 04:38 PM · maybe... Here are some pictures of the wonder instrument

January 7, 2017 at 04:39 PM · Looks someone got frustrated with one of his 24 caprices.

January 7, 2017 at 04:56 PM · No guys. I do not believe in soul or the devil and it is just gibberish to say that you can imprison someone's soul in your violin. However, it is widely believed that he killed three of his lovers and used their intestines to make gut strings. I just want to know the veracity of this statement.

I do know that he gave in to his two passions apart from music/violin - women and gambling -- to which he became addicted. But I am not sure if he really killed anyone.

January 7, 2017 at 05:09 PM · Sounds like complete you know what [not allowed to use the word here. Starts with a B).

January 7, 2017 at 05:16 PM · "However, it is widely believed that he killed three of his lovers and used their intestines to make gut strings."

Widely believed by whom? You can't be serious.

Paganini was a brilliant marketer and did not go out of his way to discourage wild 19th century rumors about him that led to increased ticket sales. That's all. Nobody today believes such things.

January 7, 2017 at 05:38 PM · Yes, it's true. And if you believe that, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. ;-)

BTW, P. named his del Gesu "Ill Cannone" - or "the Cannon" for its powerful voice. One of my violins is modeled after it so I call it "Ill Caonnone Secundo"

January 7, 2017 at 08:26 PM · If this woman really existed, certainly she was not his mother-in-law.

Paganini wasn't crazy enough to have her inside his Cannone.

January 7, 2017 at 09:47 PM · Why not? It would then keep playing even when he stopped.

Soryy, flag this staight away!

January 7, 2017 at 10:30 PM · No, there is no soul imprisoned inside Paganini's violin.

(A) The interior has been examined with small insertable cameras, and none were seen.

(B) Everyone who knows even a smidgen about souls knows that they can easily escape out the ff-holes.

January 7, 2017 at 11:03 PM · Some background about Paganini and his lady folk. For a number of years he was concert master of the orchestra of the Court of Lucca (a city state in Italy), an orchestra that was founded by Princess Elisa Baciocchi, a sister of Napoleon. Several of the high-born ladies of the Court of Lucca were his pupils both on the guitar and violin. He dedicated to them, including the Princess, a number of sonatas for violin and guitar - the 30 "Lucca" Sonatas. The warmth of the personal relationships Paganini may have had with those aristocratic ladies is of course a matter of mere speculation.

Given Paganini's background in that royal aristocratic society it seems most unlikely that the behaviour attributed to him by a so-called "bio" two centuries later has any basis in fact. We only have to consider that the permanent and unexpected vanishing (sic) of ladies at that level would surely have attracted the immediate attention of Napoleon and his security apparatus.

January 7, 2017 at 11:33 PM · That is a totally outrageous and fantastical accusation against Paganini. Total fiction.

He improsoned that woman's soul inside a VIOLA, not a violin...

January 8, 2017 at 12:12 AM · This just goes to show you that "fake news" is not a recent invention.

January 8, 2017 at 02:19 AM · When asked if Paganini had indeed done this dastardly thing he replied:

"The Russians were behind the whole thing..."

January 8, 2017 at 02:41 AM · "We only have to consider that the permanent and unexpected vanishing of ladies at that level would surely have attracted the immediate attention of Napoleon and his security apparatus."

As long as it wasn't permanent vaRnishing of ladies - whether oil or alcohol based! ;-D

But seriously, if anyone is interested, there is a very nice - I don't know what to call it - a kit? an assemblage of material? about Pag's famous del Gesu. It's a box about 8 inches square and about 1 inch thick. Inside is a full-size folded poster of the violin, a small book on the subject in Italian, French, German and English and a CD of Salvatore Accardo playing on it. It's called - not surprisingly - "Paganini's Violin" and is put out by a company called "Dynamic". The box itself is attractive with partial photos of the violin's top, flanking a portrait of Paganini (who does not appear to look guilty or repentant about anything!)

Here's just one of the companies currently selling it:

PAGANINI Box Set. Salvatore Accardo, violin - Laura Manzini, piano Dynamic. Shipped within 1 to 3 days. £24.75 Ex VAT: £20.62. Release date: 29-10-2007.

January 8, 2017 at 02:16 PM · When asked if Paganini had done the dastardly deed, he just said, "I'm automatically attracted to beautiful [women]—I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything ..."

Unfortunately the rest of the quote is not fit for polite company.

January 8, 2017 at 02:32 PM · Ha!

Paganini, that scoundrel.

January 9, 2017 at 03:59 AM · I thought it was common knowledge that Stradivarius and Del Gesù instruments had souls, which are lacking in lesser instruments.

“My god,” he said, “it has a soul.”

January 9, 2017 at 01:44 PM · They say that Heifetz had a critic's soul imprisoned in his violin. However, it took him 27 years to find a critic with a soul.

January 9, 2017 at 04:55 PM · Ha! That's a good one!

Reminds me of "The Cask of Amontillado"

January 9, 2017 at 05:21 PM · There are a couple of really good documentaries on YouTube about Paganini. In one, it basically stated that he supported these wild stories as part of his p.r. machine to get the public's interest, when he was young.

But, later on, after his fame was firmly established, he grew tired and resentful of these stories, which lived on after he himself had denounced them. He wanted the public (and the music establishment) to recognize the incredible long, hard work that went into his "gift", and grew resentful that people were crediting it to factors outside of his control.

January 9, 2017 at 05:27 PM · I very much needed a good laugh:)

January 9, 2017 at 06:06 PM · Somebody call The Doctor! Dr. Who? Exactly! -M

January 9, 2017 at 06:57 PM · He did all that and he still couldn't figure a chinrest out.

January 9, 2017 at 07:17 PM · I believe an "imprisoned soul" was the founding concept behind the invention of the shoulder rest.

(Just stirring the pot a little....)



January 9, 2017 at 11:47 PM · Did you know that he used human ribs closest to the heart for the soundpost, and he fitted a new one each performance? That might be what they're offering as trapping their soul(sorry, couldn't resist).

January 10, 2017 at 12:29 AM · Boys and ghouls, Halloween was a couple months ago.

January 10, 2017 at 12:43 AM · A woman's intestines for strings? What e string would you use?

January 10, 2017 at 01:59 AM · All of Paganini's girlfriends were gutless?

January 10, 2017 at 03:20 PM · There was a Renaissance composer (Gesualdo) who murdered his wife (and got away with it), and had other strange behaviour which today would probably have had him committed to a secure psychiatric unit for an indeterminate period.

The artist Caravaggio was also unstable. He killed someone, had a price put on his head, and fled. He later died in mysterious circumstances.

Gesualdo was certainly technically a "gentleman" because he was a member of the aristocracy and the Prince of his region, so was effectively beyond the reach of the law. Caravaggio, being an artist, could not have been a "gentleman" ;-)

Further details about the pair in Wikipedia and other sources.

If you haven't heard Gesualdo's music, it is well worth a good listen. He used harmonic structures that were centuries ahead of his time and weren't heard again until Richard Wagner.

January 10, 2017 at 03:38 PM · If you REALLY want to know, this story has an international plot. In 1798, when Paganini was 11, an Italian guy by the name of Giorgio Pirazzi started making gut strings, and eventually won the Genoese violinist over with their characteristics.

Now where Pirazzi got their gut is another story... and the rest is history.

January 10, 2017 at 04:43 PM · Was Giorgio's girlfriend/ex wife named "Eva" by any chance?

January 10, 2017 at 04:59 PM · No, but hit the fast-forward button and...

January 10, 2017 at 06:01 PM · To the OP,

There were many rumours about Paganini that circulated throughout his life. He seems to have had many wild romantic liaisons and was never married. His son Achille was born out of a wed-lock relationship with the singer Antonia Bianchi and he was awarded legal custody in exchange for an annual sum to Antonia.

The rumours regarding Paganini being in jail seemed to have come from Paris during his days there, where a publication was released where it was rumoured that he had been jailed for a crime of passion and that as the strings broke he was left only with the G-string where he acquired his mastery of it. He refuted the story with open letters to no avail, and actually, the intrigue was in part responsible it seems for his decision to end his concerts in Paris at the time.

There were all kinds of ideas to his "devilish" affiliations that were concocted and spread during his lifetime, and the idea was somehow amplified from the fact that Paganini repeatedly refused to see a priest to received his last rites in his dying days. The Church proclaimed him a heretic as a result, and upon his death we was not initially allowed to be buried in a cemetery for many years.

On another note, Sander, Heifetz seems to have been much more sensitive to the criticism he received then is generally accepted. I remember a radio interview in which he listed the criticisms he received (cold, sphinx-like, etc.) and then said "and yet, I am supposed to be rather succcessful. So, would someone please tell me, what is it that I am doing right?" (the quote may be be exact as it's been a while since I listened to it).

January 11, 2017 at 12:53 PM · Re Gesualdo, I always loved a lot of his amazing music! Another one who killed his wife I heard was a violin maker called Dichenko (sp?)

Yes, Heifetz was very sensitive to criticism. From early childhood he received nothing but the highest critical accolades. Then around 1920 as I recall, he got one bad review from a critic named Henderson saying that Heifetz was getting too routined, not involved enough in his music making and generally letting his public and his own talent down. Heifetz was so upset that he actually contemplated suicide! But he decided to take a hard look at himself and decided that Henderson was actually right and meant well. Heifetz hunkered down, got very serious about his music making and even his appearance and manner, etc.

Back to Pag and rumors, I heard that there was one floating around about how he achieved his skill with stacatto. Someone started a rumor that he had his bow hollowed out and put ball bearings in! At one point P went to Vulliaume to get his bow rehaired. When he got it back he noticed that V. had cut open and re-glued his bow, unable to resist seeing for himself if the rumor was true. "I didn't think that YOU would be such a fool as to believe that rumor", sneered P.

Probably that story is apochryphal. For one thing V. indeed was no fool. And anyone could easily have shaken the bow to feel or hear anything moving around or check the bow to see whether it had already been cut open. But anyway, another addition to the Paganini legend...

January 11, 2017 at 03:19 PM · Most of the devil rumors have been supported in more recent years by associating Paganini with a particular grainy photograph of a devilish-looking character who is actually not Paganini.

January 11, 2017 at 03:40 PM · Are you referring to the one in the NY Times depicting a middle-aged guy in a blue suit with a red tie and a swoopy blond haircut?

January 11, 2017 at 05:16 PM · Re ball bearings in the bow. Doubtful if BBs were around in P's time, but lead shot would be more likely, and easily obtainable - if there were any truth in the story.

January 11, 2017 at 08:20 PM · Paganini, the Ozzy Osbourne of the violin world

January 11, 2017 at 09:50 PM · The faux devil-Pag I saw looked more like this. It looks vaguely familiar but I can't quite place it...

January 11, 2017 at 10:33 PM · I like Heifetz playing caprice 24:

Theres also a little joke in the comments:

'We all knew that Paganini made a deal with the devil.

No one knows what Paganini got

but we all know the devil got some violin lessons'

January 12, 2017 at 01:54 PM · Interestingly, the Devil is associated with the violin in of course, the Devil's Trill Sonata by Tartini and the Soldier's Tale (Le Histoire de Soldat) by Stravinsky. Also, I think, in the country song, "The Devil Came Down from Georgia". Where else? What are people trying to say by conflating us poor fiddle players with The Big Bad Guy??

January 12, 2017 at 01:59 PM · Was it common during that time for violinists to know how to harvest intestines (human as well) and make strings out of them? I don't think so.

January 12, 2017 at 02:34 PM · Was it common during ANY time?! for anyone?!

January 12, 2017 at 08:55 PM · The process of making gut strings starts at the abbatoir.

SPOILER ALERT: Some readers make prefer to skip the following brief description of the start of the process - now! But I would first point out that the details of the process are such that the likelihood of the process starting with a human source is vanishingly small in any sort of civilized society. The full details of the entire process are on





The intestines are removed from the animal (sheep, or possibly a bovine) immediately after slaughter while still hot to ensure that veins are broken off as close to the gut wall as possible. If this is not done the intestines will not be suitable for musical use. Thorough cleaning is then done before the gut can be taken to the further stages of the process.

January 13, 2017 at 01:58 PM · Paganini never killed anyone. On the other hand, many violinists have killed Paganini.

January 13, 2017 at 02:20 PM · LIKE

January 13, 2017 at 03:00 PM · Paganini just Tweeted this "how to" out on his page.

January 13, 2017 at 04:33 PM · Wonderful video bro. Now that explains the extortionate rate for gut strings

January 14, 2017 at 02:02 PM · Wha?

Plain gut is cheaper per set Tham many synthetics, as it were. :)

January 14, 2017 at 04:01 PM · And last longer without losing tone (gut E excepted, of course!).

January 14, 2017 at 05:23 PM · Raphael, don't forget about the violin solo in Danse Macabre, which opens with the devil's interval on the devil's instrument.

True fact: one of my ancestors did not believe the violin should ever be played in church because it was the devil's instrument.

January 14, 2017 at 05:48 PM · The opposite is, of course, Stravinsky's "L'Histoire du Soldat" (The Story of a Soldier), in which the violin represents the soldier's soul, and the Devil was trying to get his hands on it. Wonderful piece, in which Stravinsky gets a chance to musically satirize dance music, a Bach chorale, and a few other things.

January 15, 2017 at 02:06 PM · It is also said that composers who used the devil's interval in their music were put to death for the belief that the church reckoned the same as a "Diabolus in Musica."

January 22, 2017 at 06:55 PM · Every violin has a soul inside. In English, we call it by the unromantic name, the soundpost. In Italian it is called l'anima, the soul.

Cheers Carlo

January 23, 2017 at 10:43 AM · Ah, right you are, Carlo!

January 23, 2017 at 03:28 PM · In French the sound post is called "l'âme", which also means "soul".

January 23, 2017 at 04:24 PM · And here I always was under the impression that the violin's soul inside was the label. Go figure.

January 23, 2017 at 10:20 PM · The label is often more related to the imagination of some fiddle-dinker, than to the true soul of the instrument. ;-)

January 24, 2017 at 01:05 AM · Ppiyy that the soul can be replaced so easily... what has the world become?! ;)

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