Francesco Rugeri (Cremona, c1628 – 28 October 1698) (also known as Ruger, Rugier, Rugeri, Ruggeri, Ruggieri, Ruggerius) was the first of an important family of violin makers. His instruments are masterfully constructed and inspired by Nicolò Amati's "Grand Amati" pattern. Today, Rugeri instruments are nearly as renowned as Nicolò Amati's instruments.
He was perhaps the earliest apprentice of Nicolò Amati, another important luthier in Cremona Italy, although other sources call this association into question as there is no census record showing his presence in the Amati household. The lack of census records showing the Rugeri name may be explained by the possibility of Francesco not being an indoor apprentice, but one who lived and boarded at his own home while apprenticing. It is also interesting to note that even Antonio Stradivari's name never appears either in the census records of the Amati household even though he was also a likely pupil of Nicolò Amati and lived and boarded with his own family. W.E. Hill & Sons also note that the unmistakable handiwork of Francesco Rugeri can be found, in certain of Nicolo Amati's works, and just like Antonio Stradivari and Andrea Guarneri, Francesco from time to time included the words "Alumnus Nicolai Amati" on his labels, further adding to evidence of his apprenticeship. For example, there exists a violin labelled "Francescus Rugerius Alumnus Nicolai Amati fecit Cremonæ 1663". Nicolò Amati was the godfather to Francesco's son, Giacinto, indicating that the two families at least shared a close relationship and close collaboration would seem likely.
In support of Rugeri being a pupil of Nicolò Amati, there is a court case brought in 1685 by a violinist who sought relief from the Duke of Modena as a victim of fraud. In this case, the violinist and composer Tomaso Antonio Vitali, bought a violin purporting to be a creation of Nicolò Amati. Yet under the Amati label was the label of Francesco Rugeri. There was a price difference in those days of 3 to 1 on Amati vs. Rugeri violins, so this was a serious matter. However, this case may also indicate that Rugeri, who was working in the shadow of the great Cremona makers—Amati, Guarneri, and Stradivari—resorted to a desperate act to make a sale. The result of the court case is not known, but either scenario could prove valid.
Some researchers believe there is a closer educational association between Antonio Stradivari and Francesco Rugeri than has previously been recognized. Despite the long held belief that Antonio Stradivari was the pupil of Nicolò Amati, there are important discrepancies between their work. Some researchers believe early instruments by Stradivari bear a stronger resemblance to Francesco Rugeri's work than Amati's. Additionally, the utilization of a small dorsal pin or small hole, invariably used not just by Nicolò Amati but all of his recognized pupils--with the exception of Antonio Stradivari, adds further evidence that Stradivari may have learnt his craft apart from Amati. This pin or hole was fundamental in the graduation of the thickness of the plates and was obviously a technique passed on through generations of pupils of the Amati. This dorsal pin is also not found in any of the instruments of the Rugeri family, suggesting Antonio Stradivari may have actually learnt his craft from Francesco Rugeri, although both being influenced by Amati.W.E. Hill & Sons concede that they fail to find the hand of Stradivari in any of Nicolo Amati's work, although the unmistakable hands of Andrea Guarneri and Francesco Rugeri are evident.
Count Ignazio Alessandro Cozio di Salabue and other early violin connoisseurs such as the Mantegazza brothers seemed to confuse the families of the Rugeri working in Cremona with the family of Giovanni Battista Rogeri working in Brecia. These two separate families of violin makers both followed the Amati tradition of violin making however their work is distinctive from each other are not thought to be related. The Rugeri family included the words "il Per" or "detto il Per" in their labels. This nickname appears also in almost all of the religious and legal documents pertaining to the Rugeri family from 1669 onward and was probably meant to distinguish them from the many other Rugeri families in the region.
Francesco lived and worked just outside of the walls of Cremona, Italy in the Parishes of San Bernardo at No. 7 Contrada Coltellai and also in the Parsish of San Sebastiano  His most productive period was during the 1670s-1680s during which time he closely followed the instruments of Nicolò Amati, sometimes even placing Amati labels in his instruments. His success peaked after Nicolò Amati's decline and before the rise of the workshop of Antonio Stradivari. Francesco's violins were characterized by a high level of craftsmanship and a very slightly higher arch. After 1670, Francesco was ably assisted by 3 of his 4 sons in his workshop:
His progeny were
Francesco Rugeri was the first to make an important contribution to cello making in the development of a smaller version of the cello that is now the standard. Francesco was buried in buried in the Church of San Trinita. Instruments created by Rugeri are highly desirable owing to their high level of craftsmanship and tone.
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