Tomasso Balestrieri was born in 1713 in the village of Viustino, a small town south of Piacenza in Italy. He moved to Mantua in 1729, taking a job as an assistant to the Italian noble, Marchese Basilio Gonzaga. He held this position through 1748. At some point he took an interest in violinmaking and became quite skilled, making instruments heavily influenced by Camillo Camilli, his predecessor as the dominant violinmaker in Mantua. Balestrieri was a fairly prolific maker, making mostly violins.
There is a clear lineage of style in the model in Mantuan violinmaking, beginning with Pietro Guarneri (originally of Cremona), carrying through to Camilli, and then to Balestrieri. Over time, Balestrieri moved away from the Camilli model toward one more inspired by the later works of Antonio Stradivari of Cremona. Balestrieri in fact listed Cremona as his residence on his instrument labels, although there is no evidence that he ever lived there.
Balestrieri’s instruments, of both models, have long been favored by performers for their exceptional tonal qualities. Our violin is a fine early example and beautifully showcases Camilli’s influence. Its lustrous, textured reddish-brown varnish has been well preserved and lends a distinct beauty to this outstanding instrument.