The 1666 “Serdet” violin is the earliest known Stradivari instrument that still bears its unique original label. It reads “Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis Alumnus Nicolais Amati, Faciebat Anno 1666.” This is the only known label that suggests that Stradivarius was a pupil of Nicoló Amati, considered by many to be the most important violin maker in Europe until the arrival of Stradivari.
Certain features of the “Serdet” indicate Stradivari’s relative inexperience at violin making, including inelegant arching of the back and the varying details of each of its corners. On the other hand, distinct characteristics of Stradivari’s handiwork that would later come to signify his methods already show themselves, especially in the soundholes and the scroll.
The “Serdet” briefly reappeared around 1900 – just long enough to pick up its nickname – only to disappear again until 1972, when it turned up in a Paris auction sale. It is now held in private ownership in England by the Beare family. For the last ten years it has been lent to Romanian violinist Corina Belcea, who has played it in all the concerts and recordings of the much-admired Belcea Quartet.