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Giovanni Battista Guadagnini
Born (1711-06-23)23 June 1711
Bilegno in Val Tidone, Italy
Died 18 September 1786(1786-09-18) (aged 75)
Turin, Italy
Nationality Italian
Known for
Notable work
  • Baron Knoop (1744, Piacenza)
  • Ex-Lorenzo (c.1745, Piacenza)
  • Baron Köhner (1752, Milan)
  • Campoli,Grumiaux (1773, Turin)
  • Salabue (1774, Turin)
  • Bryant (1775, Turin)
  • Guadagnini style
    • Piacenza period
    • Milan period
    • Parma period
    • Turin period
  • Stradivarius style
Movement Guadagnini school
Elected Court luthier of Duchy of Parma
Guadagnini Family tree
Guadagnini family tree

Giovanni Battista Guadagnini (often shortened to G. B. Guadagnini; 23 June 1711 – 18 September 1786) was an Italian luthier, regarded as one of the finest craftsmen of string instruments in history. He is widely considered the third greatest maker after Antonio Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri "del Gesù". The Guadagnini family was known for their violins, guitars and mandolins.


Giovanni Battista Guadagnini was born on June 23, 1711 in the hamlet of Bilegno, in what is now the Province of Piacenza in Northern Italy. Both his life and his career can be divided into four distinct periods, which correspond to the four cities in which he would live and work, Piacenza, Milan, Parma, and Turin.

Almost nothing is known about his early years until he moved to the nearby city of Piacenza in 1738. His first violins begin appearing in 1742. It is unknown where or from whom he learned his trade. It is likely that he served an apprenticeship with a local woodworker, since he joined the woodworking guild, however there is no documentation of local instrument makers in Piacenza at the time.

In 1749 Guadagnini moved to Milan, where he continued to make instruments. The reason for his move is unknown, but was perhaps economically motivated as Milan was a much larger city with a larger and more active music scene. During this time a few of his instruments bear labels implying a relationship to Cremona—the home of the renowned violin makers Amati, Stradivari, and Guarneri—however no evidence exists that Guadagnini ever lived in Cremona.

In 1758 Guadagnini moved again, this time to Parma. He may have been drawn to the city by the recent appointment of Carlo Ferarri, a close musician friend from his time in Piacenza, to a position with the Ducal Court. During his time in Parma Guadagnini was also closely connected to the court, and in particular to the musical patronage of the Prime Minister Guillaume du Tillot. In his later years in Parma Guadagnini even received a direct salary from the court. In 1771, with the Court's financial fortunes in decline, Guadagnini asked to be allowed to leave.

He next moved to Turin. Two years later, in 1773, he began his historically important relationship with notable violin collector Count Cozio. Cozio purchased most, if not all, of Guadagnini's output during this time, and also supplied him with most of his wood and other materials. His business partnership with Cozio ended in 1777, though they continued to have dealings with each other. The Count is likely responsible for Guadagnini's marked shift to a more Stradivari-like style during this time, both by pressuring Guadagnini to more closely copy Stradivari and by providing Guadagnini with access to examples of Stradivari's work.

Giovanni Battista Guadagnini passed away in Turin on September 18, 1786.

Violin maker

Guadagnini's work is divided into four distinct periods, which correspond to the four cities in which he worked over the span of his career, Piacenza, Milan, Parma, and Turin. His work in each new city changed in response to the availability of materials, the needs of the local musicians, and finally in Turin, his relationship with Count Cozio. Stylistically Guadagnini's work is generally less refined and polished than that of makers such as the Amatis or Stradivari, however with the same focus on tonal success. He is generally considered to be the last of the great historical makers, ranking just behind Stradivari and Guarneri. He is also possibly the last of historical makers to have used a varnish similar to what was used by classical Cremonese makers.

His instruments have sold for over $2,000,000 at auction.

Performers with Guadagnini instruments

Violinist Date & place of manufacture Sobriquet Comments Reference
Felix Ayo 1744
Riccardo Brengola 1747, Piacenza Contessa Crespi
Adolf Brodsky 1751, Milan ex-Brodsky
Zakhar Bron 1757, Milan
Amaury Coeytaux 1773
Andrew Dawes 1770, Parma
Richard Deakin English chamber musician and soloist, currently teaching at RAM in London, was using one in 1980s and likely still is.
Julia Fischer 1742
Carl Flesch 1750s ex-Henri Vieuxtemps
David Garrett 1772 In December 2007, Garrett fell after a performance and smashed his Guadagnini, which he had purchased four years earlier for US$1 million. He now uses it for mainly his outdoor crossover performances.
David Greed 1757 Owned by the Yorkshire Guadagini 1757 Syndicate.
Arthur Grumiaux 1752 ex-Grumiaux
David Halen 1753
Jascha Heifetz 1741, Piacenza ex-Heifetz Provenance - by Rembert Wurlitzer in 1946 and Dario D'Attili in 1991
Marlene Hemmer 1764
Peter Herresthal 1753, Milan
Willy Hess 1740s
Joseph Joachim 1767, Parma ex-Joachim
Ida Kavafian 1751
David Kim 1757 On loan from The Philadelphia Orchestra
Min-Jeong Koh 1767
Goran Končar 1753, Milan
Mikhail Kopelman 1773
Michał Kowalkowski 1753 Gucio
Jan Kubelik 1750 ex-Kubelik
Pekka Kuusisto 1752 On loan from the Finnish Cultural Foundation
Manfred Leverkus 1752 ex-Kneisel Stolen in 2006
Jack Liebeck 1785 ex-Wilhelmj
Wayne Lin 1779, Turin
Tasmin Little 1757, Milan
Mauro Lopes Ferreira
Haldon Martinson 1750 Being used in the Boston Symphony Orchestra
Stefan Milenkovich 1780, Turin
Viktoria Mullova 1750
Ginette Neveu Purchased early spring, 1949. Involved in an air crash later that year, in which Neveu died. Scroll later apparently appeared in Paris, having changed hands several times.
David Plantier 1766
Simone Porter 1745 On loan from The Mandell Collection of Southern California
William E. Pynchon 1779, Turin Purchased March 26, 1957. Played in San Francisco Opera until 1998
Linda Rosenthal 1772, Turin
Leon Sametini 1751 ex-Sametini
Mari Samuelsen 1773, Turin On loan from ASAF (Anders Sveeas Charitable Foundation, Oslo).
Stephanie Sant’Ambrogio 1757
Mayumi Seiler 1740, Piacenza
Ittai Shapira 1745, Piacenza
Sini-Maaria Simonen 1760 On loan from the Finnish Cultural Foundation
Roman Simovic 1752 On loan from Jonathan Moulds
Yvonne Smeulers 1785
Lara St. John 1779 Salabue Called "The Resurrection" by St. John
Lyndon Johnston Taylor 1777
Henri Temianka 1752 Built based on the Petro Guarnerius model. Certificate of Joseph Vedral, violinmaker, Holland, 28 September 1929
Vanessa-Mae 1761 Gizmo
Pablo Valetti 1758
Pavel Vernikov 1747, Piacenza ex-Contessa Crespi, ex-Brengola On loan from Fondazione Pro Canale. Worth $1.5 million in 2016. Stolen in December 2016.
Henri Vieuxtemps 1750s ex-Henri Vieuxtemps
Henryk Wieniawski 1750 ex-Wieniawski
Bob Wills 1784 Described as 157 years old when bought in 1941 for $3,000, Wills later claimed in an interview that he gave it away "to a friend of mine in Tayxas" and bought another for $5,000.
Eugène Ysaÿe 1774 ex-Eugène Ysaÿe
Bomsori Kim 1774, Turin
Li Chuan Yun 1784 On loan from the Stradivari Society
  • Li-Kuo Chang plays the 'ex-Vieuxtemps' G.B. Guadagnini viola, Parma c.1768.
  • Geraldine Walther plays a G.B. Guadagnini viola, Turin 1774.
  • Natalie Clein plays the "Simpson" Guadagnini cello (1777).
  • David Geringas plays a G.B. Guadagnini cello made in 1761.
  • Maxine Neuman plays a 1772 Guadagnini.
  • Han-na Chang plays the G.B. Guadagnini cello made in Milan in 1757.
  • Gilberto Munguia plays a G.B. Guadagnini cello (1748).
  • Saša Večtomov played a G.B. Guadagnini cello made in Milan in 1754.
  • Sol Gabetta plays a G.B. Guadagnini cello (1759).
  • Carter Brey, principal cellist of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, plays a Guadagnini made in Milan in 1754.
  • Australian String Quartet (ASQ) plays four matched instruments: a violoncello (c.1743), and a violin (1748–49), both made in Piacenza, and a viola (1783) and another violin (1784) made in Turin.
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