Such was the flourishing state of Italian art during the great Cremona period, which opened up a mine of artistic wealth for succeeding generations. It is a curious fact that not only the violin but violin music was the creature of the most luxurious period of art; for, in that golden age of the creative imagination, musicians contemporary with the great violin-makers were writing music destined to be better understood and appreciated when the violins then made should have reached their maturity.
There can be no doubt that the conditions were all highly favorable to the manufacture of great instruments. There were many composers of genius and numerous orchestras scattered over Italy, Germany, and France, and there must have been a demand for bow instruments of a high order. In the sixteenth century, Palestrina and Zarlino were writing grand church music, in which violins bore an important part. In the seventeenth, lived Stradella, Lotti, Buononcini, Lulli, and Corelli. In the eighteenth, when violin-making Avas at its zenith, there were such names among the Italians as Scarlatti, Geminiani, Vivaldi, Locatelli, Boccherini, Tartini, Piccini, Viotti, and Nardini; while in France it was the epoch of Lecler and Gravinies, composers of violin music of the highest class. Under the stimulus of such a general art culture the makers of the violin must have enjoyed large patronage, and the more eminent artists have received highly remunerative prices for their labors, and, correlative to this practical success, a powerful stimulus toward perfecting the design and workmanship of their instruments. These plain artisans lived quiet and simple lives, but they bent their whole souls to the work, and belonged to the class of minds of which Carlyle speaks: “In a word, they willed one thing to which all other things were made subordinate and subservient, and therefore they accomplished it. The wedge will rend rocks, but its edge must be sharp and single; if it be double, the wedge is bruised in pieces and will rend nothing.”
So much said concerning the general conditions under which the craft of violin-making reached such splendid excellence, the attention of the reader is invited to the greatest masters of the Cremona school.