Italy System-Mantua School (Mantua School)

Mantua, located in northern Italy, was a music capital during the Renaissance. The records of its musical activities can be traced back to the Middle Ages. With the sponsorship of the Gonzaga family, the music there was well-developed and the music market was prosperous. By the 14th century, Mantua had been famous throughout Italy for woodwind instruments (piffari) and brass instruments (trombetti) making. Some renowned instrument makers before the 16th century included Pietro Dardelli, Morglato Morella, Cesare Bonoris, and Andreas Enders.

In 1679, Pietro Guarneri of Mantua (1655-1720), the eldest son of the Cremonese luthier Andrea Guarneri (1623-1698), moved to Mantua, serving as a violinist in the court orchestra while making violins and earned the nickname “Pietro di Mantova” (“Peter of Mantua”).

In the 18th century, the violin-making industry became prosperous. The quality of the applied materials suggested the good economy in Mantua at that time, and the varnish colors that many luthiers in this period, such as Antonio Zanotti (1695-1734) and Camillo Camilli (1703-1754), chose were the golden yellow and orange.

Some later luthiers, including Tommaso Balestrieri (1713-1796), Giuseppe Dall’Aglio (1774-1855), and Gaetano Dionelli (1808-1870), crafted their works in the typical Mantua style, specifically in the aspect of the brownish orange or reddish brown varnish on the red base coat.

It is noted that the glorious history of violin making in Mantua was mainly contributed by various imported luthiers, rather than the local ones. First of all, there was no luthier based in this city before Pietro Guarneri arrived. Later from the 1840s to 1853, Giuseppe Ceruti (1785-1860), the second generation member of the Ceruti family in Cremona, resided there and brough the industry to a climax.

After 1860, there were very few renowned luthiers based in Mantua until 1886 when some members of the Scarampella family originating from Brescia moved there. The members of the Scarampella family based in Mantua included Paolo Scarampella (1805-1870), Giuseppe Scarampella, Stefano Scarampella (1843-1925), the succeder of Scarampella business Gaetano Gadda (1900-1956), and Gaetano Gadda’s son, Mario Gadda (1931-2008). Such luthiers altogether created the modern Mantua school.

In addition to the Scarampella family, there were also Antonio Pivetta (1847-?), Amedeo Simonazzi (1891-1984), Dante Guastalla (1893-1971), Alfredo Guastalla (1898-1987), and Oreste Martini (1893-1957), contributing to the modern luthier industry of Mantua.