City and History


Füssen was one of the earliest cities in the world known for manufacturing string instruments. As early as the Renaissance, it had a renowned reputation for lute production, and became an important city for violin making in the 16th and 17th century.

A small town in southern Germany, Füssen is located in the Alpine region of southern Bavaria. The city’s climate, geography and people are reasons why Füssen was able to become an important place in the history of violin making. Due to the Alpine area’s long winters and the frequent föhn winds in the summers, agricultural developments had always been restricted. The local residents made use of the abundant supply of lumber in the region and were able to develop a unique style handicraft.

The mountainous region around Füssen provided an abundant supply of spruce, yew and maple ideal for violin making. As the residents were skilled at carving and sculpture, this also helped to foster the violin making industry. In addition, Füssen had been a commercial hub since the Middle Ages, couched along the trading path connecting Augsburg and Venice. Its geographical advantage also helped advance the city’s trading of string instruments.

In 1562, Füssen formed the earliest lute manufacturing society in the world, setting strict conditions for members to be accepted into the society and for lute-making licenses to be issued. Due to the limited number of licenses being issued, many apprentices could not obtain their license and moved to other larger European cities. If these luthiers residing away from home needed more help, they tended to hire young apprentices from their hometown. In other words, the violin making techniques of Füssen continued to be disseminated and this contributed to the blossoming of violin making businesses in many other cities.

The Tieffenbrucker family was the most famous immigrant violin making family. Most of its members moved to large cities around Italy. The most outstanding luthier in the family was Kaspar Tieffenbrucker (1514-1571), who immigrated to Lyon, France in the 1550s. Legend has it Kaspar Tieffenbrucker was one of the inventors of the violin, but there are no records that testify to this.

Füssen’s string instruments were sold throughout Italy, Germany, and France. It continued to enjoy a prestigious reputation as a city for violin making until it was surpassed by the rise of Mittenwald’s violin manufacturing industry.


Mittenwald is located in the state of Bavaria in Germany and borders Austria. It is known for its lush and verdant forests and rich history of violin making. Situated between München and Italy, it was an important city on the commercial trade route and used to be a very prosperous city.

During the 17th century, the Thirty Years War was fought in Germany from 1618-1648. Matthias Kloz (1656-1743) was an important icon who helped to propel the violin making industry in Mittenwald. Between the years 1672-1678, it was rumored that he studied how to make violins with Pietro Railich, an Italian luthier from Padua, and old documents show that Railich and Kloz had a close business relationship. After returning to Mittenwald, Kloz discovered the region’s abundant maple and spruce were ideal for violinmaking. Along with the craftsmanship of the local residents, Kloz found himself possessing all the right conditions to develop his violinmaking business. He established his luthier shop in 1685 and taught his three sons and the local residents the necessary techniques for making string instruments. He was a pioneer who carved a new path for the modern violin making industry in Germany. Kloz’s son Sebastian Kloz (1696-1775) was well known for his refined craftsmanship; his works became representative of the Mittenwald school of violin making, and the Kloz family also became the largest violin making family in Mittenwald.

Starting from the middle of the 18th century, the violin shops in Mittenwald controlled the sales of string instruments in the city. The violin manufacturing trade in Mittenwald was managed in a business-like fashion, drawing on division of labor which reduced costs and made the process of violin making more efficient. Towards the middle of 19th century, Mittenwald had become the world’s main supplier of string instruments. Although in terms of quality and artistry, the relatively cheap instruments were no comparison to the handcrafted ones, but they still played an irrefutable role in popularizing the performance and education of string instruments. Mittenwald’s world-leading violin making industry led the U.S. to establish a consulate in the city to manage trade affairs related to string instruments. The famous Japanese manufacturer Suzuki was established after the trader Msakichi Suzuki visited the violin factories in Mittenwald. The development of the Suzuki enterprise gradually became closely related to the popularization of violin education in young children, which also led to children learning other musical instruments at a younger age.

In 1858 Mittenwald established the world’s first violin making school. However, after the Second World War, with the sharp rise of the record and film industries, the violin making industry in Mittenwald fell in decline.


With regards to the instrument making industry in Nuremberg, the city is famous for its trumpet makers in the 16th and 17th centuries, and the glorious period of production of woodwind instruments by the Denner family (1680-1740), but the lute makers and violin makers of Nuremberg remain less well known.

Between the mid-16th century and mid-17th century, there had already been many luthiers famous for making the viola da gamba. However, the first violin maker was Matthias Hummel from Augsburg. The earliest violin found that was made by Hummel dates back to 1681 and is today part of the collection of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum. Hummel passed away in 1716 and left his studio to his student Sebastian Schelle (1676-1744). Schelle moved from the south of Germany to Nuremberg. Although there were some violins and other string instruments under his name, he was most famous for making lutes.

It can be said that Leonhard Maussiell (1685-1760) was the first luthier famous for making violins in Nuremberg. A contemporary of Schell, he was regarded as the most distinguished luthier in Nuremberg between the years 1720-1790. After Schell’s death, Maussiell not only made instruments, but was also known for his refined skills for repairing instruments. Leopold Widhalm (1722-1776) was another luthier active in Nuremberg at the time. He was sued for using the same eagle label as Maussiell. Although he was not on friendly terms with Maussiell, his violins were relatively inexpensive and vastly popular at the time. After Widhalm passed away, his shop was managed by his sons Martin Leopold and Gallus Ignatius, both of whom continued to make violins with the Widhalm label. In 1855, the Widhalm family’s shop finally closed down in the hands of Johann Martin Leopold, son of Gallus Ignatius, and this also ended the glorious violin making tradition of Nuremberg at the end of the 17th century.


While the instrument-making industry in Italy was undergoing expansion, the industry in the northern Germanic region was slowly taking place as well. Located near the borders of Italy, Austria, and Switzerland, the Tyrol region in the Alps was once ruled by the Holy Roman Empire during the Middle Ages, and later became a territory under the ruling house of Habsburg in the 13th century. In regards to the history of violin making, it is believed in the first half of the 16th century that Tyrolean instruments were deeply influenced by Italian instrument-making technique due to Tyrol’s geographical proximity to Italy. It is unknown even to this day when the craft began in Tyrol. However, early in the 17th century, a violin-making master named Jacob Stainer (1617-1683) indeed once existed in Tyrol, who was said to have stayed temporarily in Cremona to learn violin-making skills. Unlike in Brescia and Cremona, the instrument-making industry in Tyrol was never passed down from one generation to another.


The earliest sources of violin making in Vienna can be traced to two main factors: the southern migration of luthiers from Füssen and the influence of Polish luthiers.

The earliest luthiers active in Vienna were Antony Posch (1677-1742) and Daniel Achatius Stadlemann (1680-1744). Stadlemann was considered the most outstanding luthier from the early 18th century and known for his use of a golden yellow varnish, which became representative of the early Viennese style of violin making. He made Stainer-style violins which were vastly popular among string instrumentalists in Austrian orchestras.

By the middle of the 18th century, it was Johann Georg Thir (1710-1781) who established the Viennese system of violin making. He still followed Stainer’s model to create long, narrow violins with prominent arches. After his death, his student Franz Geissenhof (1754-1821) took over his business, creating a new era for the Viennese school of violin making. He continued the traditions of Thir’s style and spirit, but also followed and imitated the Cremona school and elevated the status of Viennese luthiers. In addition, Geissenhof passed on his craftsmanship and knowledge to Hungarian luthiers and influenced the Hungarian school of violin making.

1850 marks the peak of the golden age of the Viennese school of violin making, with distinguished luthiers Nicolaus Sawicki (1792-1850), Johann Baptist Schweitzer (1790-1865) and Gabriel Lembock(1814-1892) developing the Viennese tradition to its fullest and influencing the various systems of Hungarian violin making.