Vittorio Bellarosa (1907-1978) was the last of an unbroken Neapolitan tradition of violin making that had begun in the 17th century with Alessandro Gagliano (1665-1732). Bellarosa’s work is nearly exclusively devoted to Gagliano-inspired violins. Over the years, many Bellarosa instruments have both fraudulently and mistakenly been sold as the work of various members of the Gagliano family.
Learning the Craft
Bellarosa grew up in Naples around violin-making: his father, Riccardo Bellarosa (1872-1941), was a trained violin maker who seems to have devoted his career mostly to restoration work.
In 1922, at age 15, Vittorio was sent to apprentice with the violin maker Vito Vitantonio in Rotello, 100 miles north of Naples. In 1925, Vittorio went to Mittenwald, Germany, to pursue his diploma in violin making. Six months later, he moved to Rome to work in the shop of Rodolfo Fredi, where he stayed for several years.
Setting Up Shop
Bellarosa returned to Naples in the late 1920’s to establish his own shop. From the early 1930’s he began to work closely with another Neapolitan violin maker, Giovanni Pistucci (1864-1955), for whom he varnished many instruments. When Giovanni Pistucci died in 1955, Bellarosa acquired the equipment from the Pistucci workshop.
From around 1950, Vittorio Bellarosa began to label his instruments more consistently. At about that time, he also began to mark the bottom ribs of his instruments with a distinctive brand stamp depicting two sea horses. However, Bellarosa seems to have discontinued that practice from around 1954.
Vittorio Bellarosa was a prolific maker who produced very good-sounding instruments. Many of them were exported to the US and sold by large firms such as Rembert Wurlitzer in NY, William Moennig in Philadelphia, and William Lewis and Kenneth Warren and Son in Chicago. Vittorio Bellarosa died in Naples on February 26, 1978.
A Bellarosa Violin: The “Feintuch”
The “Feintuch” Bellarosa illustrated in this article is built on a Gagliano model. The two-piece back and head are made of the same attractively figured wood. The top is of two pieces of choice spruce. The violin is covered with a vivid orange-colored varnish of a soft texture, laid on a yellow ground coat. The date on the original label has faded and become illegible, but the work is typical of the maker’s mature production from the early 1960’s.
Gerald S. Feintuch (1942-2000), former owner of the violin, was an up-and-coming conductor whose life was cut tragically short at the age of 58. Gerald earned his BA and MA in composition and conducting from Queens College, and then went on to study viola with Leonard Davis, Principal Violist of the New York Philharmonic, and studied conducting with Leonard Bernstein, Wilhelm Furtwängler, and Herbert Blomstedt. He later served as music director of orchestras in Hershey and Altoona, Pennsylvania, and Fort Wayne, Indiana. His personal violin, made in Naples by Vittorio Bellarosa, was donated to Guarneri Hall NFP in his memory by Dr. Paul Feintuch and Karen Feintuch, Gerald’s brother and sister-in-law, to be used for the growth and enjoyment of young musicians.
This article was originally published on the Guarneri Hall website.