This gallery showcases the rich variety of the Academy’s stringed instrument collection. On display are fascinating plucked and bowed instruments from the 16th century to the present day, including a Renaissance lute, a Parisian five-course guitar, and a British-made piccolo violin. Our collection ranges geographically from local London craftsmen to influential Cremonese makers such as Antonio Stradivari and the Amati family. One star display is the exquisite ‘Viotti ex-Bruce’ 1709 violin by Antonio Stradivari, which was saved for the nation in 2005 and once owned by Giovanni Battista Viotti, personal violinist to Queen Marie Antoinette. Also on display are the ‘Archinto’ 1696 viola by Stradivari, a five-string cello c.1600 by Antonio and Girolamo Amati.
Displays are interspersed with rare archive material of prints, etchings and scores, illustrating the instruments in performance and animating historic figures associated with them.
The Academy’s team of skilled luthiers can be seen some weekdays in the glass-walled studio workshop adjacent to the gallery, preserving and maintaining the collection of over 250 instruments. As an active playing collection, exhibits change as some are lent to Academy professors and students to enhance their studies, played in special concerts or recordings, or as new display themes are explored.