Grulli Pietro

  • Cremona, June 16, 1831 - October 21, 1898
  • Pietro Grulli was the second born of thirteen children of Luigi, a butcher, and Giuditta Sartori, the daughter of a landlord. He was born in Cremona in the Sant’Abbondio Parish church district [SOMMI PICENARDI 1800 - SOMMI PICENARDI 1997, p. 154], on June 16, 1831 [Anagrafe del Comune di Cremona, registri 1846/1859 at the Archivio di Stato]. As a matter of fact, when he was born, his parents lived in a house in front of the eastern side of the church, under the bell tower, at the former 1730, Contrada San Nazaro (now 13, Via Bernardino Gatti). Pietro never married and probably lived with his birth family for all his life: in 1843, they were still reported to live in Sant’Abbondio, while in 1847 they moved at number 2234 Contrada Pescheria Vecchia (now 2, via Platina), at 2278 Contrada della Montata (now via Sicardo 3? or 4?) in 1848, at 2117 Contrada Gonzaga (now 4, via XI Febbraio). in 1857 – the year of his father’s death -, at 6 via Amati (now 8) in 1885 and finally at 32 corso Garibaldi (now 62) in 1894. When he was young, Pietro found employement at the organ and piano maker Ragioniere Francesco Ghisi [ cembalist, born in Barzaniga in 1809, moved to Cremona in 1838] which was based in Contrada Gonzaga, where he worked for several years. In the meanwhile, he learned as an autodidact and started to restore some bow instruments [CAVALLI 1898]. After admitting that he found some details about Grulli on a handwritten small piece of paper by canon Gaetano Bazzi († 1890), Sommi Picenardi wrote that in 1859, when the second Lombardy War of Independence against the Austrian dominion broke out, the Ghisi firm was declining and the owner asked his employee to learn how to make violins. For this reason, Luigi Faja († ?) , who was a violinist in the Società Filarmonica and in the Teatro Concordia Orchestra and who was a regular customer of the fellow double bass player and violin maker Enrico Ceruti († 1883), accepted to teach Grulli the principles of the violin making, as Ceruti was known to be very jealous of his know-how and unwilling to share it with anyone. In the registers of the years 1843/59, Pietro Grulli was mentioned as a “harpsicord maker carpenter”; later, they added the word “freelance”. The skilled cabinet maker and carver Paolo Moschini († post 1869) [Zambelloni copied form Sommi Picenardi the name Paolo Marchini, but the only carpenter from Cremona with this name that is mentioned in the Camera di Commercio register was operating in Rivarolo del Re in 1802, when Pietro Grulli was’nt born yet. Paolo (Paolino) Moschini, born in Soncino in 1789, started as an apprentice at Epifanio Moreschi (Maggiolini’s pupil) in Milan and then at Sostegno Benvenuti in Florence. In 1850 he opened his shop in Cremona, where he had many aristocratic clients, such as Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma] and likely taught him learnt the intaglio carving and the veeniring techniques while carver Carlo Fecit († ?) [Born in Cremona in 1817, carpenter like his father Giuseppe, who had a shop in Contrada Diritta (now called Via Palestro) in 1822] taught him the carving technique. Grulli managed to make his first violin with few rudimentary tools (“it was imperfect, but it had a good sound” [SOMMI PICENARDI 1800 – SOMMI PICENARDI 1997, p. 154]). Around 1862-63, he sold it to blind violin and mandolin player Giovanni Vailati, who came from Crema and was called “the blind from Crema” († 1890). In 1866, when the third War of Independence broke out – one of his brothers, Eugenio Luigi († 1926) took part in the war a soldier in the 1st regiment of the Italian volunteers – Pietro, as the eldest brother, was forced to work in the family butcher shop and inn for at least four years. Very likely he devoted himself to the violin making in 1870, as the labels of his known instruments seem to confirm. He made mostly violins (only one cello made in 1880 and a guitar are attributed to him). As above mentioned, between 1885 and 1892 he lived and worked in 6 (now 8) via Amati [Annuario d’Italia 1892, pp. 991], while in 1894 «at the modest workshop of Grulli in via Garibaldi», he had received a visit from the English folklorist Herbert Morris Bower who, in his pamphlet on his visit to Cremona, he wrote: «Here, it is true, he would find no further development of the famous Cremonese School, but a cordial and cheerful worker» [BOWER 1895]. And in fact in 1896 he was mentioned to be a musical instrument maker in 32 (now 60), corso Garibaldi [Annuario d’Italia 1896, p. 1076]. According to Sommi Picenardi, Grulli made about 40 instruments and many of them were sold abroad. The two silent violins are among them: 1892 (which is displayed at the Museo del Violino in Cremona) and 1893 (wich is displayed at the Museo nazionale degli strumenti musicali in Roma). In 1880, he exhibited two violins at the Esposizione Agricola di Cremona and the Industry and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce awarded him a bronze medal as a consolation prize. In 1883 he exhibited four violins at the Esposizione nazionale di strumenti musicali di Arezzo and was awarded a special mention. The following year, he was awarded a bronze medal at the Esposizione generale italiana in Torino, where he exhibited four violins. He exhibited other instruments athe the Cremona exhibition in 1892 [CAVALLI 1898]. In 1895 he donated four walnut clamps with the Antonio Stradivari brand to the municipality of Cremona, in order to have them displayed at Musicians and Violin makers halls in the Museo Civico (MS 635-638) [BOWER 1895]. He died as a ‘poor man’ on October 21, 1898. Aristide Cavalli, founder of the Officina Claudio Monteverdi, honoured him twice: during his funeral in the church and when he was buried in the Cremona graveyard [CAVALLI 1898]. After his exhumation, his bones were place and lost in the mass ossuary in the Cremona graveyard. (The writing of this abstract has been possible thanks to the research of the German amateur violin player Rolf Fauser)

creato:giovedì 8 marzo 2012
modificato:mercoledì 22 febbraio 2023