It is believed that the violin originated from Italy in the early 1500s. It is believed to have evolved from the fiddle and rebec, both were bowed string instruments from the Medieval period1. The violin is also believed to have emerged from the lira da braccio, a violin-like instrument of the Renaissance period2. The viol, which came before the violin, is also closely related.
It is Andrea Amati who is the known developer of the violin. Amati apprenticed as a lute maker and in 1525, he became a master instrument maker.
The earliest noted violin makers were Gasparo da Salò and Giovanni Maggini, both Italians, but it is during the 17th and early 18th centuries that the art of violin making reached its peak. The Italians Antonio Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri as well as the Austrian Jacob Stainer are most noted during this period. Stradivari was an apprentice to Nicolo Amati, Andrea Amati's grandson.
The earliest form of the violin is very different from that of today. The early violins had a neck that was shorter, thicker and less angled. The fingerboard was likewise shorter, the bridge was flatter and the strings were made of gut.
At first the violin wasn't popular, in fact, it was considered a musical instrument of low status. But by the 1600s such well-known composers as Claudio Monteverdi3 used the violin in his operas, thus the violins' status grew. The violins' prestige continued to rise during the Baroque period, made more notable by such celebrated figures in music as Antonio Vivaldi4 and Johann Sebastian Bach5.
By the mid-18th century, the violin enjoyed a vital place in instrumental music ensembles. In the 19th century, the violins' rise to fame continued in the hands of virtuoso violinists such as Nicolò Paganini and Pablo de Sarasate. In the 20th century the violin reached new heights both in technical and artistic aspects. Isaac Stern and Fritz Kreisler are some of the well-known icons of this time. Truly, the violin has come a long way.