Throughout the decades of the 1660s, 1670s, and 1680s, Antonio Stradivari largely followed the grand pattern of his presumed teacher, Nicolo Amati. As Amati advanced in age, Stradivari eventually took over his position as the violin maker to royalty and wealthy individuals throughout Europe. Although Stradivari gradually evolved his stronger and flatter arches and bolder edges than Amati’s, it was not until about 1690 that he began to experiment in search of a significantly more powerful sound.
From 1690 to 1692, Stradivari made about a half-dozen violins that maintained the same harmonious Amati shape but in larger overall dimensions. The “Theodor” at 36 cm is the smallest of this group and is just 5 mm larger than the violins of the 1680s – but the difference in sound is significant. It has the same lush and complex qualities of his earlier work, but acquired a new power and strength that his later violins became known for.
The first owner of this violin we know of was a fine musician named Mrs. Iska Theodor of London who purchased the violin from Riechers of Berlin in 1881. We know that Theodor still owned the violin when it was certified by W. E. Hill & Sons in 1938. Interestingly, the violin has since been owned by a series of four women, the last being a highly regarded soloist who owned it for nearly three decades.