The History of Violin Making in Mittenwald (summary)










The history of violin making in Mittenwald is closely bound up with the history of the town. Until the beginning of the 19th century, Mittenwald was one of the principal towns in the Grafschaft Werdenfels, that is, the lands of the Counts of Werdenfels. In 1802 the Werdenfels lands became part of Bavaria. Since mediaeval times Mittenwald profited from being located on a trade route between Venice and Augsburg and by the end of the 17th century, violin making and other crafts had become established in the town. Mittenwald would later become one of the most important centres in Germany for the making of both bowed and plucked stringed instruments.

  Matthias Klotz (1653 – 1743) is generally regarded as the founder of violin making in Mittenwald. He probably received his early training from a craftsman in the Füssen area (not very distant), but from 1672 – 78 he worked as a journeyman for the Allgäu lute maker, Pietro Railich, who had moved to Padua. On his return to his homeland, finding favourable circumstances in Mittenwald, Klotz settled there, married, bought a house and opened a lute making workshop around 1685/86. He trained his three sons, Georg I, Sebastian I and Johann Carol, as well as other Mittenwald violin makers. Later a second school developed under the influence of Matthias Hornsteiner.




Part of the ceiling fresco in the nave of the Mittenwald Catholic church, St. Peter and Paul. This is the oldest known picture portraying both a Mittenwald lute and a Mittenwald violin, it was painted in 1740 by Matthaeus Guenther (1705 – 1788), who was one of the most well-respected south German Rococo painters. The painting is thought to have been a tribute to the life work of Matthias Klotz, who in 1740 was an immensely well-respected octogenarian.






An early 20th century violin making workshop, reconstructed in the original Geigenbaumuseum Mittenwald, founded in 1930. The photograph dates from about 1935



World War II resulted in the closure of violin making and retailing firms and it was only when there was a revival of interest in Kunstgeigenbau (high quality, individually crafted instruments) that violin making was revived in Mittenwald.


In 2003 the town celebrated the 350th anniversary of the birth of Matthias Klotz. A website was set up by the Geigenbaumuseum to commemorate 300 years of violin making in Mittenwald. Parts of this are available in English and links are provided below. There are today 11 violin making workshops in Mittenwald making both bowed and plucked stringed instruments. The Geigenbauschule Mittenwald (Violin Making School) attracts students from all over the world as well as training local violin makers.




A violin made by Matthias Klotz of Mittenwald in 1714




The statue of Matthias Klotz in front of the Church of St. Peter and Paul in the Obermarkt, Mittenwald



Violin making in Mittenwald reached its peak in the second half of the 18th century, but at the same time the seeds of its future decline were being sown. It began to be influenced by the retail organisations and some violin makers were beginning to specialise in making particular parts of a violin. The subsequent decline was brought about by a combination of natural catastrophes, war and economic recession. Perhaps most importantly, the secularization of southern Germany and the Hapsburg lands, at the beginning of the 19th century resulted in the closure of many monasteries and churches, and violin making became dominated by the retail trade. For the most part, instruments were no longer the work of one particular craftsman. Some were labelled as being after a particular model, but many were completely unmarked.

 By the early years of the 19th century, the market was mainly for simple, inexpensive instruments and violin making had become mainly a piecework trade. It was

 in order to halt this decline in violin making that the Violin Building School was founded in Mittenwald, in 1858, with the support of King Maximillian II of Bavaria.


Another important influence on Mittenwald violin making was Ludwig Neuner (1840 – 1897). Neuner went to Paris and worked as a violin maker for Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume (1798 – 1875). Here he came into contact with many examples of classic Italian violins. He returned to Mittenwald with examples of Vuillaume models and worked to encourage the return to violin making as an art in Mittenwald.




Mittenwald violins

















The Geigenbaumuseum Mittenwald




















The Violin Making Museum in Mittenwald has been undergoing extensive refurbishment and re-arrangement. The work was completed in April 2005. The museum exhibits show the craft of violin making and its development in Mittenwald, embedded in the history of the place. The following announcement of the re-opening of the museum is taken from the Mittenwald official website. The translation is ours.








Re-opening of the Violin Making Museum


On 15 April 2005, after a long period of rebuilding and renovation, the Geigenbaumuseum could once again open its doors to guests and visitors from all over the world. The new ‘Specialist museum for violin making’, as it is called in the trade, is divided into two major thematic areas: in the one it shows the history of Mittenwald, which is bound up with violin making, in the other the development of local violin making from Matthias Klotz to the present day. In the future there will be about 200 instruments displayed in the museum, from every significant Mittenwald workshop, ranging from the most valuable violims of master craftsmen to a poor quality damaged instrument, from children’s violins to contrabasses. Further than this there are also Guitars, Citherns and Zithers. Beside the instruments themselves there will also be on display large numbers of pictures, maps, display boards, tools,and historical and craft related expositions. The new Mittenwald treasure chest also includes a room for concerts, lectures and special exhibitions. 






















An exhibit in the Geigenbaumuseum



The Violin Making Museum in Mittenwald



















A gallery in the newly refurbished Geigenbaumuseum Mittenwald (from the museum website)













The core of the extensive and extremely valuable collection of instruments relates to violin building in Mittenwald, from the baroque masters such as Matthias and Sebastian Klotz, to the workshops of the present day. However it does also include violins originating elsewhere, for example those of the world famous Tirolese violin maker, Jacob Stainer. There are also large numbers of bowed and plucked stringed instruments related to the violin.


We tried to see the Geigenbaumuseum on the Sunday in April 2004 when we were in Mittenwald. Although, according to its advertised opening hours, it should have been open, we were unable to gain entry. All we saw was a firmly closed door. This may have had to do with the refurbishment, but there was no notice to this effect. There is a fairly comprehensive official website covering everything relating to violin making in Mittenwald. Parts of this are available in both German and English, including a more detailed account of the history of violin making in Mittenwald than the one given above. This is where we have obtained our information.  The Geigenbaumuseum pages appear to be available in German only and the information given above about the museum is a taken from that source and translated into English by us. The museum webpages include a good many photographs of the newly refurbished museum, of which we have purloined one or two. A link is given below for the official composite website, as well as links to specific sites included therein.





















Please click below for individual components of the website commemorating 300 years of violin making in Mittenwald (in German and English):



Geigenbauschule Mittenwald

Geigenbaumuseum Mittenwald
History of Mittenwald Violin Making
Introductory Bibliography of Mittenwald Violin Making
Index of all Mittenwald Violin Makers

The Mittenwald violin making family Klotz

Matthias Klotz (1653-1743)
Violin 1714

Georg I Klotz (1687-1737)
Sebastian I Klotz (1696-1775)
Johann Carol Klotz (1709-1769)



Sie finden hier die entsprechenden Links:



Geigenbauschule Mittenwald

Geigenbaumuseum Mittenwald

Geschichte des Mittenwalder Geigenbaus
Der Wirtschaftsraum Süddeutschland-Tirol-Venedig
Einführende Bibliographie zum Mittenwalder Geigenbau
Register sämtlicher Mittenwalder Geigenbauer

Die Mittenwalder Geigenmacher-Familie Klotz

Matthias Klotz (1653-1743)
Violine 1714
Matthias Klotz Denkmal in Mittenwald

Georg I. Klotz (1687-1737)
Sebastian Klotz (1696-1775)
Johann Carol Klotz (1709-1769)



  blue mask



Please click below for:


Main website index

Concert listing 2003 - 04

Additional information 2003 - 04 (Bavaria)