A dendroarchaeological re-examination of the "Messiah" violin and other instruments attributed to Antonio Stradivari

Henri D. Grissino-Mayer, Paul R. Sheppard, Malcolm K. Cleaveland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

The "Messiah" violin is considered by many to be the finest work by Antonio Stradivari and one of the most valuable musical instruments in existence. Questions were recently raised concerning its authenticity on stylistic and historical grounds, especially in light of conflicting sets of tree-ring dates for the spruce top of the violin. To resolve this controversy, we analysed the tree rings on the "Messiah" and those found on five other instruments constructed in the same general period, dating these against a regional chronology that integrated 16 alpine tree-ring chronologies from five countries. We conclusively dated both the "Archinto" (1526-1686) and "Kux"/"Castelbarco" (1558-1684) violas against the regional chronology. We could not directly date the "Messiah" against the regional master chronology, but found that its tree rings dated well against both the "Archinto" and "Kux"/"Castelbarco" violas. Our results strongly suggest that the tree rings of the "Messiah" violin date between 1577-1687, dates that support the attribution to Antonio Stradivari and the label date of 1716. We hypothesize the wood used to make the "Messiah" came from a low-elevation tree growing distant from the high alpine areas, whereas the wood used to make the two violas likely came from an intermediate, mid-elevation location.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-174
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Volume31
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2004

Keywords

  • Antonio Stradivari
  • Dendroarchaeology
  • Messiah
  • Musical instruments
  • Tree rings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology

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