Camillo (Camillus) Camilli


The Duchy of Mantua, though small, was an important cultural center during the Baroque period. Benefiting from its proximity to Cremona, Mantua also became a center of violinmaking known for superb craftsmanship. For instance, Pietro Guarneri (1655–1720), Andrea Guarneri’s eldest son, worked in Mantua as a part-time luthier and musician from about 1680. Camillo Camilli, who was born near Vicenza in 1703, was already a maker of the next generation. No records of his training are available, but he is likely to have worked alongside Antonio Zanotti for a brief period after 1731. After Zanotti’s death in 1734, Camilli settled permanently in Mantua. Apart from this, little is known about his life. An entry in a Mantuan parish’s death records indicates that Camilli had been seriously ill for a year before he died.

Over 100 instruments crafted by Camilli have been preserved, mainly violins. Orchestra and chamber musicians prize these instruments for their fine tonal quality. The fairly high arches are suggestive of Pietro Guarneri’s models, but Camilli’s f-hole and scroll design are distinctive. Camilli favored a clear, luminous varnish that brings out the structure of the wood.