Antonio Stradivari (1644? - December 18, 1737) was an Italian luthier (maker of violins and other stringed instruments), the most prominent member of that profession. The Latin form of his surname, "Stradivarius" - sometimes shortened to "Strad" - is often used to refer to his instruments.
Antonio Stradivari was born in the year 1644 (by some sources also in 1649 or 1650) in Cremona, Italy to Alessandro Stradivari and Anna Moroni. Probably in the years 1667 through 1679 he served as a pupil in Amati's workshop.
In 1680 Stradivari set up for himself in the Piazza San Domenico, and his fame as a instrument-maker was soon established. He now began to show his originality, and to make alterations in Amati's model. The arching was improved, the various degrees of thickness in the wood were more exactly determined, the formation of the scroll altered, and the varnish more highly coloured. His instruments are recognized by their inscription in Latin: Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis Faciebat Anno [date] (Antonio Stradivari, Cremona, made in the year ...). It is generally acknowledged that his finest instruments were manufactured from 1698 to 1725 (peaking around 1715), exceeding in quality those manufactured between 1725 and 1730. After 1730, some of the instruments are signed sub disciplina Stradivarii, and were probably made by his sons, Omobono and Francesco.
Apart from violins, Stradivari also made harps, guitars, violas, and cellos — more than 1,100 instruments in all, by current estimate. About 650 of these instruments survive today. Antonio Stradivari died in Cremona, Italy on December 18, 1737 and is buried in the Basilica of San Domenico in Cremona.
His instruments are regarded as amongst the finest stringed instruments ever created, are highly prized, and still played by professionals today. Only one other maker, Joseph Guarneri del Gesu, commands the same respect among violin soloists.
Until recently, the highest price paid at a public auction for a Stradivarius was £947,500 ($1.6 million) for the "Kreutzer Strad" at Christie's in London, 1998. In April 2005 the "Lady Tennant Violin" was sold in New York for $2.5 million. The Lady Tennant violin was made by Stradivari when he was 55 years old.
Other famous Stradivarius instruments are the Davidov Strad, a cello currently owned and played by Yo-Yo Ma, and the Duport Strad cello owned by Mstislav Rostropovich. The Soil Strad of 1714 is owned by virtuoso Itzhak Perlman, and many consider it amoung the finest of all strads.
The world's two largest publically-accessible collections of Stradivari instruments belong to the King of Spain, consisting of two violins, two cellos, and a viola, exhibited in the Music Museum at the former Royal Palace (Palacio Real) in Madrid, and the U.S Library of Congress' collection of three violins, a viola, and a cello.