The Sunday Telegraph reports that Antonia Stradivari, the last descendant of the Italian master violin-maker Antonio Stradivari to bear his name, has embarked on a mission to stop their shared name being "usurped" for what she considers to be unseemly commercial use. Antonia, a children's theatre director from the violin-maker’s town of Cremona, said that she was sick of seeing her unusual surname, a byword for perfection, "misappropriated by estate agents, dog breeders, and prosciutto (cured ham) makers". In a test case in the Italian courts last week, she reportedly obtained an order compelling Immobiliare Stradivari Snc, a Cremonese estate agent, to drop the word "Stradivari" from its title. She is threatening similar action against anyone else misusing the name.
"At first it did not bother me to find the name being used for almost everything and anything. Sometimes it even seemed funny. Companies ripping off the name are springing up like mushrooms, to the point where my ancestor will be turning in his grave".
In his Cremona workshops Antonio Stradivari (1644 to 1737, better known by his latinised tag Stradivarius) made 1,100 violins, cellos and violas, the finest of which fetch up to £1 million. His workmanship is credited with bringing the violin to perfection.
Antonia’s critics accuse her of wanting to charge a fee for the use of her surname, which she denies:
"Nor am I seeking publicity. All I want is for the name to be removed where it is improperly used."
She lists a number of companies and products with no connection to music whose use of the name she objects to: a cat and dog breeding business in Milan, a sofa company and a shop in Cremona selling "prosciutto Stradivari". She says she has less objection to a restaurant-boat with dancing in the Emilia Romagna region, called the Stradivari, or a Stradivari sports centre in Cremona:
"To name a boat after a person is a kind of honour, and there's nothing wrong with naming a sports centre after someone. But to call a cured ham or a cat and dog breeders after them is a dishonour for a name. I am the last Stradivari and so for me this hurts all the more."The regional court which backed Ms Stradivari, and also ordered the offending estate agent to pay her legal costs, said that she was entitled to protect her own name, whether or not she was descended from the original violin-maker.
The IPKat, whose ancestors escaped being used as cat-gut in Stradivari’s violins, is astounded at the breadth of relief the Cremona court is apparently providing to claimants with surnames but no trading interest and no palpable claim to the invasion of any of their privacy or publicity rights. This decision surely can’t be right. If it is, the IPKat wonders, is it totally out of step with the relief available in the 24 other EU member states.
Why Stradivarius violins are so good here
Fake Stradivariuses here and here; genuine copies here and here
On the fiddle here and here; make your own violin here and here