Exploring Montagnana Cellos

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Exploring Montagnana Cellos: History, Craftsmanship, and More

Domenico Montagnana’s instruments, especially his cello, are considered some of the finest in the world. He created the personal model, one of the most popular cello models. A possible pupil of Matteo Goffriller, he had a more eclectic style of string instrument making than the great Cremonese masters, and he helped found the famous Venetian School of Fine Instruments.

Montagnana was a vigorous and spontaneous craftsman, allowing him to achieve dramatic results. This makes his cellos alluring to cellists and collectors alike. Not only will his instruments make a beautiful, complex, and powerful sound, but their value will increase over time, making them an excellent investment.

Domenico Montagnana (1686-1750)

Domenico Montagnana was born in Lendinara in 1686. He arrived in Venice around 1701, shortly after Matteo Gofriller had established himself as the leader in the emerging Venetian school of stringed instruments. It is unsure if Montagnana apprenticed with Gofriller or Matteo Sellas, but he eventually opened his own workshop in 1712. He married a Venetian woman, Caterina Berti, and had six daughters. After his wife died in 1748, Montagnana spent more and more time in his workshop, and his health began to decline rapidly. He died in 1750, and Giorgio Serafin, his son-in-law, inherited his workshop.

Montagnana developed his own cello model during a time when cello design was very fluid. His cello form is relatively short but very wide, especially in the center bouts, providing great volume and a large vibrating area of wood at the instrument’s heart, resulting in enormous sound. Valued by many players as superior to the Stradivari cellos of the ‘B’ form, they provide an earthy, powerful counterpoint to Stradivari’s refined clarity. Through the years, his instruments have been associated with many of the finest cellists.

Domenico Montagnana has immensely influenced the world of cellos. His cellos provide inspiration for a whole new generation of instrument makers, and the ‘Montagnana model’ is widely used for new cellos as an alternative to the Stradivari’ B’ form, which was the almost universal template throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Characteristics of Montagnana Cellos

Montagnana cellos have a wide and short body with flatter archings. The width between the center bouts gives the cello a broad, dark sound that projects evenly and warmly. Their richly penetrating sound ranks them among the best cellos ever made, making them exceptionally fine for solo playing.

Montagnana’s cello arching and edgework are very muscular, full of big gestures and powerful shapes.

The varnish used in Montagnana cellos helps them achieve a very dramatic appearance, deep red, thick, and, most of the time, showing craquelure. The cellos often have a dark appearance, which lights up dramatically when intense light strikes the deep pigmentation that has become masked by surface dirt.

Montagnana Cello Models

Some of the most famous Montagnana cellos are:

  • The 1723 ‘Esquire’ is currently on loan to Harriet Krijgh
  • The 1733 ‘Petunia’ is currently owned by Yo-Yo Ma
  • The 1738′ Mighty Venetian’ currently owned by Nathaniel Rosen
  • The 1739 ‘Sleeping Beauty’ which was played by Heinrich Schiff

How the choice of model can impact a cellist’s playing experience.

The choice of a cello model can greatly impact a cellist’s playing experience because it makes a different sound. A player should choose their cello based on what type of tonal characteristics and sound projection they are looking for. Obviously, specific cello models will sound much better than others, and the Montagnana model is one of these.

Recognizing an Authentic Montagnana Cello

An important thing to ask for to make sure that a Montagnana cello is genuine is its relative certificates of authenticity. The label of the cello can often be wrong, but the certificates will more likely provide correct information. Getting an appraisal of the instrument will also largely help, as expert advice is always very important. Finally, one may choose to ask for a dendrochronology report, which is the process of identifying the age of wood by analyzing the patterns of tree rings, or a varnish analysis, which helps identify the kind of components used on the varnish of the instrument.

The Market for Montagnana Cellos

In general, the market for cellos is seeing steady growth and is expected to keep growing at high rates in the near future. This is due to the scarcity of these masterpieces and the increasing popularity of music in both established and developing nations, with the internet, social media, and travel. Antique instruments, such as Montagnana cellos, are therefore only increasing in value, which makes them an excellent investment.

Famous Cellists and Montagnana Cellos

Harriet Krijgh, who currently plays on a 1723 Montagnana cello, is a young Dutch player who is one of today’s most exciting and promising cellists. Born in 1991, she started playing the cello at age 5, and was accepted into the young talent class at Utrechts Conservatorium in 2000. In 2004, she moved to Vienna, where she studied cello at the Music and Arts University of the City of Vienna. From 2019 to 2021, she played in the Artemis Quartett.

Yo-Yo Ma, who owns a 1733 Montagnana cello, is an American cellist born in Paris to Chinese parents and educated in New York City. He was considered a child prodigy, performing from the age of four and a half. He graduated from the Juilliard School and Harvard University and has performed as a soloist with orchestras around the world. He has recorded more than 90 albums and received 19 Grammy Awards. In addition to classical music, he has recorded folk music, traditional Chinese music, tangos, and Brazilian music, and he has collaborated with famous artists from all kinds of genres.

Regarding the Montagnana cello on loan to her, Harriet Krijgh has said “I was elated to receive the news that this wonderful Montagnana cello would be loaned to me… The cello was played by the wonderful Truls Mørk, a cellist I deeply admire. His performances and recordings have inspired me throughout my career and I feel honored that I can now perform on the same instrument.”

Yo-Yo Ma on the other hand, has compared his Montagnana cello to wine; “While in the bottle, it remains highly concentrated; when let out, it interacts with the air, it breathes, it opens up, you savor its bouquet. That’s just like a cello tone… the Montagnana—big, full, and massive—is a Burgundy.”


This cello is a precise copy, or a portrait of Montagnana’s masterpiece, crafted by our master maker. With precision in every detail, Luiz handcrafted this cello, replicating all the details that make the original piece and the work of Montagnana in general so unique. The thick and clear Venetian red oil varnish presents a whole map of different textures, which is the high point of this copy. 



This cello is an inspired Montagnana model crafted by our master maker. It follows Italian traditional handcraftsmanship and features Luiz’s passions for liberty and expressiveness in a work of art. The thick and clear Venetian Red oil varnish presents a whole map of different textures, and it is the high point of this cello.


“The instrument (Luiz Amorim copy of Montagnana) not only brings a lot of warmth, but also bass support and clarity to the sound. It gives some kind of personal singing voice to the music and is something special to work with.”
“When I play, my cello by Luiz Amorim, what happens is that I almost forget that I am playing a modern instrument. The deep sound of the basses of this instrument is really very unique and this reminds me of some of the great cellos that I have tried before in my life, Strad, Montagnana, and a few other ones. It has so many of the qualities that you expect from an instrument that is 300 years old or more.”

In conclusion, we can say that Montagnana cellos are some of the finest in existence. Domenico Montagnana created a cello form that has become a model for expert luthiers worldwide and created beautiful instruments with an intense, rich tone. To this day, his legacy has helped inspire musicians, luthiers, and musical enthusiasts, and his cellos are now owned by some of the most famous musicians in the world.

If you are considering investing in a fine cello, a Montagnana model will not disappoint. These incredible, powerful instruments will help bring out the best of your playing abilities if you are a musician or can be an excellent investment. Learning about Domenico Montagnana and his exceptional contributions to the musical world will help guide you in this choice. Here at Amorim Fine Violins Cremona, we have sold a beautiful copy of a 1733 ‘Ex-Eisenberg’ Montagnana cello made by Luiz Amorim. If you are interested in this instrument, it is available for commissioned work.