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A scarce specimen of the Bergamo School, but one of great merit.
On January 29, 2020
by Raph Hurwitz & Will Robertson
Bartolomeo Calvarola
Bergamo
fl.1753-1767
At one point confused with Camilli by the writer Poidras, the record was set straight potentially by W.Henley in his Universal Dictionary of Violin and Bow Maker - Bartolomeo Calvarola stands as a scarce specimen of the Bergamo school of violin making. Highly influenced by Ruggieri, Calvarola’s production was low but finely tuned.
The violin pictured here, dated 1753, is an almost textbook example of his output. The scroll is narrow and a tad unusual, with a pinched look and large ‘ears’. The body is light and has a fragile demeanour yet is well executed. The varnish is of a light gold/brown colour and the f-holes are Staineresque. As John Dilworth says “Good workmanship, eccentric style”. Judging by the few models that we’ve seen in person, the confusion with Camilli of Mantua most certainly has come down to Chinese whispers and spelling errors over the years.

Model seems inspired by Ruggerius, There is a narrow appearance about a Calvarolla (sic), style of arching might be termed Amatese… - W. Henley

The Ruggeri influence is interesting. Judging by his model, there is a large amount of inspiration in the scroll, the slender pegbox and the width of the ears. From the outline, there seems to be an attempt to achieve the same proportions but do not fully resemble that of the Cremonese school. Calvarola was a talented craftsman, and the influence obviously pushed him to experiment with his model, resulting in violins that are full of character and fine quality.

Information about Calvarola is generally as scarce as his instruments, and sadly there does not seem to be much more historical knowledge about his life or family. There is some speculation as to whether the Bergamo school died with Calvarola, the other Lombardy towns of Milan, Mantua, Brescia and Cremona (to name a few) being far more attractive to violin makers. The only other known maker of merit being Luigi Montanari, who promptly left Bergamo in the mid 1800’s to study with Antoniazzi in Milan, dying one year after returning home.

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