Viola by Antonio & Girolamo Amati, Cremona, c.1620

Object type
Bequeathed by John Rutson,
Stringed instrument: Viola by Antonio & Girolamo Amati, Cremona, c.1620

The Academy's magnificent viola of 1620 is of particular interest as it is one of the few surviving tenors which has not been reduced in size for modern playing. The outline is similar to the Brothers' violin of 1629, but the middle bouts are elongated and squarer while the long and beautifully formed corners are slender and hooked. The purflings are inlaid with superb precision and set relatively close to the edge of the plates, creating a delicate and light appearance, while the perfectly formed mitres are deflected toward the centre bouts. Amati arching is typically deeply channelled around the edges, but in this case not excessively.

The beautifully formed soundholes are short, wide-spaced and of an upright stance, while the narrow, tapering lower wings and large circles are developed from Andrea's design.

The head is particularly beautiful and well proportioned. The cheeks are flat, in the style of a cello head, although not so wide as to obstruct the player's left hand. The long and elegant pegbox tapers to a wide throat beneath the perfectly carved scroll. The volutes are hollowed and gather depth from the second through to the narrow final turn. The figured quarter-sawn maple used for the back and sides of the instrument is of a type commonly used by the Amatis. The continuous slope of the flame across the centre joint (achieved by reversing one half of the back before jointing), rather than the mirror-image pattern most commonly seen, is also a feature of their work. The front is of straight and even close-grained spruce.

The powerful sound and wide range of tone colour of the instrument led Paul Silverthorne to try to adapt to its size in 1982. Once he had explored and developed its tonal possibilities, the viola became an integral part of his performing. The combination has led to several new works, including 'After Ariadne' by Richard Rodney Bennett, 'Echo of the Wind' by Elizabeth Lutyens for solo viola, and a viola concerto by Robert Saxton.
Date made
Currently played by Paul Silverthorne. Works written for this viola include 'After Ariadne' by Richard Rodney Bennett, 'Echo of the Wind' by Ellizabeth Lutyens for solo viola, and a viola concerto by Robert Saxton.


Bennet, Elias, Lutyens, Hawkins, Matthews, Musgrave, Payne, Saxton, and others. Works written for Paul Silverthorne 1979-1999, (Black Box Recordings)
Brahms, Viola Sonatas, and Songs with Viola, (Meridian)
Bridge, Lament, (Crystal Records)
Saxton, Invocation, Dance, and Meditation, (NMC)
Walton, Piano Quartet, (EMI)
played by Paul Silverthorne
maple, spruce, ebony
Object type
Type Length Width Height Diameter Unit (length)
Stop 249 mm
Neck 159 mm
Back 451.5 mm
Upper Bout 215 mm
Middle Bout 149 mm
Lower Bout 263 mm
Back (with caliper) mm
Upper Bout (with caliper) mm
Middle Bout (with caliper) mm
Lower Bout (with caliper) mm
Total String Length 413 mm
Accession No


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