The Mantua School, New and Old: Part 2

Dall’Aglio to Scarampella to Gadda

Mantua School violin by Scarampella

Italian Violin by Stefano Scarampella, Mantua, 1917. Lot 55 in the May 1, 2011 Fine Musical Instruments auction. Estimate $30,000-40,000.

The period in Mantua following Balestrieri was comparatively quiet, with the only maker of note being Giuseppe dall’ Aglio, who worked in the style of Camilli until 1840. In 1886, Stefano Scarampella arrived in Mantua from nearby Brescia and established himself as a full-time maker two years later. His father had been an amateur builder, and his brother Giuseppe was trained in Nice and Florence. When Giuseppe died in 1902, Stefano inherited his tools and plunged himself a period of artistic isolation and intense creativity.

He favored the models of his forebears, dall’ Aglio and Balestrieri, and his wood carving is often very rugged and spontaneous, if not always so precise. Scarampella violins, violas, and cellos can even be quite rough, but the tops and backs of his instruments always feature a consistently full, flat arch that extends almost to the very edge. The sound holes are long and thin. This combination gives his instruments a very dark tone that players love.

Over this he laid a very thin but intense fiery red varnish. His instruments became extremely popular and he was possibly the only maker in Italy whose work was actually copied and even faked during his lifetime. In 1919 he turned over his workshop to his excellent pupil Gaetano Gadda, who continued the tradition of the Mantua outline and the full arch to great success in a long and productive career.

However, instruments that are certified by Scarampella’s hand are the most highly valued, especially from the period of 1902-1920. This is an example from 1917, made of local Lombardy poplar with a wild, irregular figure. It was the property of Boston Symphony Violinist Vincent Mariotti (member 1922-1941) who purchased the violin from Scarampella.

3 thoughts on “The Mantua School, New and Old: Part 2

  1. Pingback: The Mantua School | Rare Balestrieri violins

  2. I have a Stefano Scarampella 1912 Mantua that was seen by Jeffrey Holmes at Shar Instruments in Ann Arbor, MI and Kerry Keene (Antiques Roadshow) and Frederick Oster here in Atlanta in the late 1990’s early 2000’s. I am not sure but I believe David Bonsey was also present in Atlanta at the time with Mr. Oster or Mr. Keene. My father and I also showed a Leandro Bisiach, Sr 1940 and a Szepessy Bela London 1886.

    My father, Roger Kostuch who passed away in 2007 was an amatuer violinist, collector and student of violins. He played in the Atlanta Community Orchestra in the 1970’s and loved the violin and it’s history.

    My father acquired the Stefano Scarampella 1912 and the Leandro Bisiach 1940 in Atlanta, GA in the 1960’s, well before all the hype and excitement about Scarampella violins. The Scarampella has Politi Papers and was certified by Luthier George Kelischek at his workshop in NC.

    Kerry Keane and Frederick Oster were unable (or afraid) to certify that the Scarampella was genuine although they said it could be but they were not experts in Scarampellas. Jeffrey Holmes looked at this violin for a long time and said that if it was a Scarampella it was one of the finest he had ever seen. Jeffrey mentioned that the violin was a clear example of a Tomasso Balestrieri pattern which was Scarampella’s best pattern.

    This beautiful violin has exquisite and powerful tone and according to my Dad, it is a very “forgiving and easy instrument” for an accomplished violinist to play.

    I would like to have this violin certified by a Scarampella Authority. I can send you pictures of the intrument if you are interested. It is a breathtaking violin and our family would love to have it certified if it is indeed a Scarampella.

    If you can give me more info and, or point me into the right direction where to go to have a Scarampella expert examine this violin I would be much appreciative.

    Sincerely and Best Regards,
    Tom Kostuch
    Atlanta, GA

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