Francesco was the first luthier of the Ruger family. After him, four of his sons devoted themselves to violin making: Giovanni Battista (1653-1711), Giacinto (1661-1697), Vincenzo (1663- 1719) and Carlo (1666-1713). As Vincenzo established long-lasting ties with the Bergonzis, it has been suggested that Carlo Bergonzi, who is considered today as the last of the great classical makers, might have attended the Ruger workshop. Over the centuries, the family surname has been spelled in many different ways: Ruggeri, Ruggieri, Ruger, Rugeri and also Rogeri. Ruger is the name that can be read today on the original instruments’ labels; equally curious is the nickname “known as the Per” that has been referred by more than one source to Francesco’s habit of using pear wood for the construction of his instruments. Nothing is known about Francesco’s training which started when the Cremonese violin making scene was dominated by a single great craftsman, Nicolò Amati. However, Francesco’s instruments unmistakably show the influence of Nicolò as to style and construction technique and, in addition, the existence of relations between them and their families is documented. Francesco’s workshop was located outside the town walls, unlike those of the other Cremonese craftsmen that rose side by side in the heart of the town, in the quarter known as “isola”. His violins were so similar to Nicolo’s that, in 1685, Tomaso Antonio Vitali – a violinist and composer who has been attributed with the famous Chaconne for violin and continuo – sought justice from the Duke of Modena. The unfortunate virtuoso had in fact bought a violin purported to be made by Nicolò Amati at the price of twelve doppie, and had later discovered that the Amati label had been applied over another one signed by Francesco Ruger whose violins were considered, at the time, to be less valuable than Nicolò’s. In 1937, on the occasion of the Stradivari Bicentenary, the then owner of the violin living in Milan, Carlo Moneta, submitted the instrument dated 1675 to the International Commission for Verifying the Authenticity of Antique String Instruments. The Commission’s opinion was unanimous: it was a beautiful work by Francesco Ruger.
Francesco Ruger detto il Per in / Cremona dell’anno 1675
Stradivari Bicentennial, Cremona, October 27, 1937
John & Arthur Beare, London, March 24, 2006
Private collection, instrument on extended loan to the town of Cremona since 2008