Chasing Paganini through Genova

Walking lesser-trod Italian paths to find two immaculate instruments belonging to Paganini.


Classical Dark Arts recently embarked on a junket that swung through Genova, Italy in pursuit of rare and singular sites. The following photos show our particularly impressive finds.

Cristoforo Colombo was born in Genova. For a time the city-state counted among its inhabitants some of the world’s wealthiest merchants. These days tourists dodge scooters and amble down labyrinthine pathways to peek inside the mansions that remain as monuments to bygone glory days. These palazzi double as museums for art and curious artifacts left behind.


We went searching for a gilded set of artifacts housed at the Palazzo Doria Tursi: the personal effects of violinist, sorcerer and Genova native son Niccolò Paganini. Somehow the museum has managed to corral two unbelievable treasures among their collection, Paganini’s Guarneri del Gesù Cannon violin from 1743, and the 1834 copy of the Cannon by Jean-Baptiste Vuillame, called the Sivori.

First: to find them. The Palazzo Doria Tursi is housed within a trio of palazzi for which you buy a single ticket. Doria Tursi is further and confusingly confined to the back part of Palazzo Bianco (the third, across Via Garibaldi, is Palazzo Rosso) such that you must go through the entirety of Bianco to get to it. This is no problem. There’s plenty to see along the way, including Repentant Magdalene by Antonio Canova, which is absolutely flooring in person.


Very soon after you find yourself in a dark hallway, between two of the endless number of chambers in the palazzi, with a barely legible plaque next to a closed door. Clearly you push the door open and see what’s behind it. And when the motion activated lights click on… Il Cannone.



The Cannon was a nickname bestowed on the del Gesù by Paganini, who thought the instrument sounded at least as loud as the weapon.



Across the room was the Sivori. Both are housed in plexiglass, climate-controlled cases. This is a slightly unfortunate circumstance — these are violins that should be regularly played, not locked up like Hannibal Lecter.

The Sivori is a copy that Vuillame made while he repaired the Cannon for Paganini. Paganini in turn gave the instrument to his student, Camillo Sivori, who became the Vuillame’s namesake owner.



For some reason the Sivori had better lighting.



A few other Paganini ephemera are housed here: his chess board, a manuscript in Paganini’s own hand, a painting of Paganini, and of course the case for the Cannon.


Paganini’s hand-written copy of the Inno Patriottico manuscript.




For the cost of nine euros — and a plane ticket to Genova, true — you can slide through Palazzi Doria Tursi, Bianco and Rosso and see this for yourself. Worth the trip.


By Will Roseliep

Writer for different outlets. Personal work appears here first:

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