Dendrochronological analysis of bowed and plucked instruments from the San Pietro a Majella Conservatory, Naples

The Museo Storico Musicale of the San Pietro a Majella Conservatory of Music in Naples owns a collection of over 200 musical instruments of considerable historical importance. Within the collection, 30 bowed and plucked instruments representative of the Neapolitan
violin-making tradition were analysed dendrochronologically to date them, estimate the provenance of the wood and investigate the instruments’ construction characteristics. The values of the statistical cross-dating tests were generally high and allowed 26 instruments to be dated.
In all but one case, the dates were consistent with those of the catalogue. From the perspective of wood selection, we noted an unusual use of very old spruce wood, well beyond simple seasoning. The construction technique of the soundboard and other characteristics show good similarities with instruments analysed in other Italian collections. Thus, even in Neapolitan instruments, the growth rings are smaller in small instruments and larger in cellos or double basses. In conclusion, the Neapolitan violin-making school has shown great care in the choice of wood, most coming from regions as far
away as Germany or Switzerland, thus confirming the existence of an active large-scale trade in wood for the production of musical instruments.

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