Italy System-Florence School (Florence School)

Florence has long been an important city of the Tuscany region. The powerful Medici family ruling in the middle ages and Renaissance had financially, religiously, and politically supported the artistic activities in Florence. The Medici family had collected an enormous number of artworks created by various top-ranking artists. Part of the collection is now displayed at the Uffizi Gallery, which makes this gallery like a heaven of the arts.

In the middle of the 16th century the Medici had contacted Andrea Amati (1505-1577) to order musical instruments. The Queen Regent of France Catherine de Medici (1519-1589) intended to raise the standards of French poetry, music, dance, and gourmet; suggested by a number of artists, Catherine de Medici and her young son, Charles IX of France (1550-1574) commissioned Amati to make 38 instruments, which included 12 violins of larger size, 12 violins of smaller size, 6 violas, and 8 cellos. In addition, all the instruments were painted individually by the artistic Sofonisba Anguissola (1535-1625).

Ordering musical instruments had become a tradition of the Medicis. The family of Amati and of the Stradivari had received Medici’s orders . In the 1680s, Prince Ferdinando de Medici (1549-1609) recruited the Italian luthier Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1732), who was the very first local luthier in Florence. Cristofori was credited with the invention of the piano through replacing the plucking mechanism of the harpsichord with a hammer action capable of striking the strings with greater or lesser force. This type of piano was called in his time gravicembalo col piano e forte, or “harpsichord that plays soft and loud.” Cristofori had produced 20 gravicembalo col piano e forte, 3 of which have survived. The surviving instrument which is now housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, was produced in 1720 and has the range of four octaves; the one housed at the Museum of Musical Instruments in Leipzig was produced in 1726 and has the range of four and a half octaves; the one displayed at the Museum of Musical Instruments in Rome was produced in 1722.

The 18th-century Florence gathered a number of outstanding luthiers, such as Pier Lorenzo Vangelisti, Giovanni Battista Gabrielli (1716-1771), Tommaso and Lorenzo Carcassi active between 1750 and 1780, Gaspero Piattellini, Luigi Piattellini, and Luigi Piattellini Ⅱ who led the business of violin making into the 19th century. The 18th-century violins shared similar varnish, model, and the design of F holes, which was unusual in the Italian history of the violin making. Aside from Tommaso and Lorenzo Carcassi, the 18th-century luthiers in Florence were relatively less prolifica.

The number of luthiers in Florence gradually decreased during the 19th century. Some of the luthiers, so far we know, include Lorenzo Arcangioli (1825-1874), Valentino De Zorzi (1837-1916), and Giuseppe Scarampella (1838-1902), all of whom moved from other regions to Florence, founding their own workshops, vividizing the local business of the violin making, and initiating the trend of the violin making in Florence.