Guameri, famous Italian family of violin makers. The Italian form of the name was Guarnieri; Guarneri was derived from the Latin spelling, Guarnerius; the labels invariably used the Latin form. Andrea, head of the family (b. Cremona, c. 1625; d. there, Dec. 7, 1698), was a pupil of Nicolo Amati; he lived in Amati’s house from 1641 to 1646, and again from 1650 to 1654, when, with his wife, he moved to his own house in Cremona and began making his own violins, labeling them as “alumnus’7 of Amati and, after 1655, “ex alumnis,” often with the additional words of “sub titolo Sanctae Theresiae.” Andrea’s son Pietro Giovanni, known as Pietro da Mantova (b. Cremona, Feb. 18, 1655; d. Mantua, March 26, 1720), worked in Cremona before settling in Mantua about 1638, where he also was active as a court musician; he also used the device “sub titolo Sanctae Theresiae.” Another son of Andrea, Giuseppe Giovanni Battista, known as Silius Andreae (b. Cremona, Nov. 25, 1666; d. there, c. 1740), worked in his father’s shop, which he eventually inherited in 1698; he made out-standing cellos as well as violins. Giuseppe’s son Pietro, known as Pietro da Venezia (b. Cremona, April 14, 1695; d. Venice, April 7, 1762), left home about 1718 and settled in Venice, where he adopted some features of the Venetian masters Montagnana and Serafin. Another son of Giuseppe, (Bartolomeo) Giuseppe Antonio, known as Giuseppe del Gesu, from the initials IHS often appearing on his labels (b. Cremona, Aug. 21, 1698; d. there, Oct. 17, 1744), became the most celebrated member of the family; some of his instruments bear the label “Joseph Guarnerius Andreae Nepos Cremonae,” which establishes his lineage as a grandson of Andrea. His violins are greatly prized, rivaling those of Stradivarius in the perfection of instrumental craftsmanship; he experimented with a variety of wood materials, and also made changes in the shapes of his instruments during different periods of his work. Such great virtuoso violinists as Paganini, Heifetz, Stern, Szeryng, and Grumiaux used his instruments.
G. de Piccolellis, Liutai antichi e moderni, genealogia degli Amati et dei Guarnieri (Florence, 1886); H. Petherick, Joseph Guarnerius, His Work and His Master (London, 1906); H. Wenstenberg, Joseph Guarnerius del Gesu Abbildungen und Beschreibungen seiner Instrumente aus seinen drei Perioden (Berlin, 1921);W. Hill, Violin Makers of the G. Family, 1626-1762: Their Life and Work (London, 1931).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire