Giovanni Francesco Leonpori is one of the more enigmatic 18th-century violin makers. While Leonpori’s labels attest to his city of origin being Milan, we also know that he worked in Rome and in the mountainous town of L’Aquila about 100 km to the north-east of Rome. Beyond these basic biographical details we know very little. Many reference books list a maker named “Leoriporri,” which is most likely a mis-reading of this maker’s manuscript labels. The original label in this 1759 example clearly spells the maker’s name as “Leonpori” with a single “r,” but others with knowledge of other original Leonpori labels assert it to be “Leonporri”. Sadly the 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila destroyed or damaged most of the city archives which might have provided future researchers an opportunity to discover more about the life of this rare maker.
The back of the violin is of rather plain maple which was embellished with artificially painted “flame.” The pigment or stain used to create this effect was applied to the bare wood under the varnish and has, in some instances, “bled” laterally in the direction of the grain. The ribs and head were treated in a similar manner, which has created a unique effect in the head of making the flame appear equally pronounced on the quarter, the slab and the endgrain.
Stylistically, the model of this violin shows the influence of the Testore family in its outline and sound-hole placement, but the arching and edge treatment seem more reminiscent of a Roman influence. The notches of the sound-holes were originally set high in the belly and were placed almost straight across from one another with little offset. The original stop length would have been around 187 mm, which was later adjusted to 195 mm. The interior work, done in spruce, is quite hasty and unrefined, and the original upper block is still in place with a large unfilled nail hole visible. Despite its rather rustic construction, the violin has been very well preserved and affords a rare and fortunate insight into the work of this obscure maker.