The History of Violin Cases

Written by rebecca jenkins
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The History of Violin Cases
This violin is cradled in the popular Musafia cases made in Cremona, Italy. (violin in garden image by e-pyton from Fotolia.com)

Violins are very vulnerable instruments. Any small blow could damage the wood body of the instrument or break the strings or snap the bow in half. For this reason, violinists carry their instruments in cases, and have since violins were invented in Italy in the mid-16th century. Violin cases are also famous as objects that gangsters in Italy used to conceal guns.

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First Violin Cases

The violin in its modern form was first created in Italy in the 16th century. The first violinists carried their instruments in wooden boxes. To ensure that the violin did not rattle around, they stuffed the boxes with rags to protect the instrument. Little is known about these early cases but it does not seem like they had special compartments for the bow, the horsehair stringed portion of the violin drawn across the strings to make a sound.

'Coffin' Cases

Early violinists had to improvise to come up with cases for their instruments. The first mass-produced cases were the so-called "coffin cases" used in France and Germany. Black, and with a coffin-like shape, they held the instrument firmly in place with special straps and a section to snap the bow in place. American writer Tennessee Williams later wrote a short story playing on this object called "The Resemblance Between a Violin Case and a Coffin."

Developments

As the centuries passed, violin cases grew more and more specialised to fit the demands of the violinists. Instead of just a box or coffin shape, newer violin cases were moulded exactly to the shape of the violin. This way, when you lay the instrument in the case, it can't move to the side. Newer cases included a tie or a Velcro strip to secure across the neck of the violin to keep it in place.

Personalised Cases

Celebrities and monarchs from kings to tsars to marquis had their cases custom-made for them, according to Dr. Glenn Wood, author of "The Art and History of Violin Cases." Some of these cases were lavish, with rare woods and inlaid pearl. Others had family crests or initials, such as the case of Habsburg queen Maria Theresa.

Musafia Violin Cases

The current standard violin case for professional violinists is manufactured in Cremona, Italy and contains a number of useful innovations. Most important, Musafia violin cases include a hygrometer and humidifier to monitor the humidity conditions of precious instruments. The four locking bow spinners and Teflon-treated exterior are all trademarks, too. One of the most popular models has backpack straps and is used by violin soloists such as Hilary Hahn.

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