Previously known in the 19th and 20th centuries as the work of the Brothers Amati from circa 1620, contemporary scholarship now recognises this fine Cremonese violin as the work of Francesco Rugeri from circa 1680.
The violin is historically significant as the concert instrument of the Italian child prodigy Maria Milanollo (1832–1848). Maria and her sister Teresa (1827–1904) were born in Savigliano near Turin and began studying music at an early age. Their precocious talent was quickly recognized and in 1837 the family moved to Paris to study with Charles Philippe Lafont and later Charles-Auguste de Bériot. The two sisters gave many concerts together and toured extensively, playing in all the major halls of Europe. From early on, their double-act earned the respect of serious critics and garnered the attention and support of many of Europe’s leading musicians, including the Italian double bass virtuoso Domenico Dragonetti. It was Dragonetti who supplied both sisters with their concert instruments: Teresa with her 1728 Stradivari and Maria with this Rugeri. Sadly, Maria contracted tuberculosis in October 1848 and died suddenly aged only 16.
The violin is built on a smaller pattern typical of Francesco Rugeri. The modeling is Amatise with its elegant corners and compact sound holes with neatly tapered wings. The arching is strong but low and quite advanced in concept. The head is typical of this maker and in this example the edges and center ridge of the dorsal side are still extremely crisp and show few signs of wear.