Amati, a family of Cremona, celebrated for the perfection attained by many of its members in the construction of violins and instruments of that class. I. Andrea, born in Cremona between 1500 and 1520, died about 1577. He is said to have served an apprenticeship as a violin maker at Brescia, and he established a shop of his own at Cremona while still a young man. The instruments used in the chamber concerts of his time, such for instance as the lutes, theorbos, guitars, and mandolins, were all soft-toned, and sweetness rather than power of tone was sought in their construction. Following this taste, his violins are remarkable for their exquisite softness of tone and the beauty of their workmanship. They are of small and medium patterns, the arch elevated; the wood of the bottom runs with the grain, the sounding-boards are moderately thick, and the varnish is of a clear brown. Very few of his instruments now exist. Charles IX. possessed a collection of 24 violins, viols, and basses made to his order by Andrea Amati. They were very elaborately ornamented, having the arms of France and various other devices painted in colors on the back.
II. Nicolo, a younger brother of the preceding, known for the excellence of his violoncellos. He is believed to have outlived Andrea, though the exact dates of his birth and death are uncertain.
III. Antonio, son of Andrea, born at Cremona about 1550, died in 1035. He was his father's pupil, and succeeded him in business. For a time he was associated with his brother Geronimo, and the instruments bearing their joint names are much esteemed. Antonio adopted the models of his father, but made a much greater number of small than of large instruments. His violins produce delicate, sweet, and pure tones, but they have little power. The first and second strings are the best, the third a little dull, and the fourth slightly dry in tone. His violins are all of exquisite finish; the arch is high in the centre, and the fir of which the sounding-boards are made is of a fine and delicate grain.
IV. Geronimo (date of birth and death unknown), youngest son of Andrea, was a pupil of his father. His violins were generally of a larger pattern than those of his father and brother, and inferior to them. No violins bearing his mark subsequent to 1038 are known to exist.
V. Nicolo, son of Geronimo, born Sept. 3, 1596, died Aug. 12, 1684. He was the most celebrated of the family, and the greater part of the instruments known as Amatis are from his hands. He not only made great changes in the models and proportions adopted by his family, but gave to his details a higher finish and to his curves a greater perfection, while he discovered a mellower and more beautiful varnish. The relation of the swells and the thicknesses of his instruments is better planned than in those of his father or his uncle. Thence it is that, while preserving their distinguishing sweetness of tone, they attain more power and brilliancy. Some violins at which this maker would seem to have worked with unusual care are masterpieces of art. One of two dated 1688 was at Milan in the collection of Count Cozio de Salabue. In perfection of finish, purity and mellowness of tone, this instrument was considered a marvel. The great violinist Alard also possessed one of the finest instruments that ever came from the hand of this great maker. The weakest point in his violins is the second string, which, owing, it is believed, to the too sudden decrease in the thickness of the belly toward the sides, is thin, the notes Si and Do being particularly liable to this objection.
As is the case with the instruments of all the other makers of this family, the tones of those made by Nicolo are slender, but in an especial degree sweet, round, and silvery.