Carlo Giuseppe Testore: The Violins of the Maker

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Travel back to 1732, when Carlo Giuseppe Testore learned the craft of violin-making from his father. Giuseppe, a talent himself, eventually became known as the highest skilled luthier in his family.
Carlo Testore learned much of his craft from his teacher, Giovanni Grancino. He created beautiful instruments that would go on to rival Grancino’s. In 1697, Testore moved to Milan and opened his own workshop, where he continued to create violins, cellos, and double basses of exceptional quality.

As his work remained heavily influenced by Stradivari, Grancino and Amati, he also developed his own techniques, adding distinct features such as the ‘Testore scroll’.

Testore’s scrolls are instantly recognizable too. Their distinctive bulges are a key aspect of all their work, and that’s the opposite of Grancino’s scrolls: these are perfectly symmetrical (compare the C. A. Testore violin scroll of circa 1755 with the Grancino violin scroll of circa 1700 and cello scroll of 1701).

Let’s meet some of his exceptional work

Carlo Giuseppe Testore, 1690

It is a particularly fine example in a very pure state. His instruments were frequently attributed to his mentor Giovanni Grancino, and when this instrument was opened for repairs in 1884, it was found on removing the spurious Grancino ticket to bear beneath the original label of Carlo Giuseppe Testore dated from Milan in 1690.

This instrument has a table made of vigorous pine, the grain very open at the flanks. The purfling of the belly is original. The sound holes are cleanly cut and round, often found in an instrument by Joseph Guarnerius. The two-piece back is of small figured native wood. The back is unpurfled, with lightly incised lines taking the place of the usual inlay. The varnish is lightish brown-yellow, very clear, and sparingly applied.

Carlo Guiseppe Testore, Milan, 1700

Believed to be one of his best works. Made of plain maple marked by a faint curl, the instrument has a two-piece back. The wood on the sides is similar to that of the head but plainer. The back is unpurfled with two lightly incised lines replacing the usual inlay. The varnish is a dark red-brown color.

Carlo Giuseppe Testore, 1705

Also handcrafted in Milan, this violin has a two-piece back of narrow curl ascending slightly from left to right and the ribs of a fainter broader curl. The top opens out towards the flanks showing off its golden varnish.

Bonus, we bring you one of the masterpieces of his son Carlo Antonio Testore the continuation of the incredible work of the Testore family.

Carlo Antonio Testore, 1742

The back is two pieces of maple cut on the semi-slab. The scroll is also of plain wood. The front is two matched pieces of spruce with a grain of medium to fine width. The violin has a clear, pale golden-brown varnish and is a good example of the maker’s work.

Carlo Antonio Testore was the eldest of his father’s sons, and his instruments still show the mark of Grancino in his father’s work. In general, Carlo Antonio’s instruments appear hasty and less distinguished, often with false purfling on the back and flat-backed pegboxes.

The Testore legacy

Carlo Giuseppe Testore is remembered as the most skilled Testore luthier, leaving behind fine examples of craftsmanship and beautiful sounding instruments. Testore’s instruments have been owned and played by well-known artists from across the world.

From Carlo Giuseppe to Carlo Antonio, we see the decline of great violin-making traditions that occurred throughout the 18th century in Italy. The quality of these violins deteriorated so much that in the late 17th century, it was called a “corrupted trade,” and Cremona was affected as well.

Did you enjoy learning about Carlo Giuseppe Testore? Check out our blog of Top 10 Violin Makers from the 1700s