Guarneri is the name of a family of famous violin makers from Cremona in Italy in the 17th and 18th centuries. Together with the families Amati and Stradivari they made some of the best violins the world has known.
Andrea Guarneri (c. 1626 - 7 December 1698) was a pupil in the workshop of Nicolo Amati from 1641 to 1646 and returned to make violins for Amati from 1650 to 1654. He married a rich lady and they were able to buy a large house which became known as the “Casa Guarneri”. They had seven children. Two of his sons: Pietro Giovanni and Giuseppe Giovanni, became violin makers. Andrea Guarneri produced some fine violas, one of which was played by William Primrose in the early 20th century.
Pietro Giovanni Guarneri (18 February 1655 - 26 March 1720), known as Peter of Mantua (Pietro da Mantova) to distinguish him from his nephew Pietro Guarneri. He worked in his father's workshop from around 1670 until his marriage in 1677. He had settled in Mantua by 1683, where he worked both as a musician and a violin maker. His instruments are generally better than his father's. However, he did not make so many instruments because he spent a lot of his time playing them. None of his children became violin makers. Joseph Szigeti played one of his instruments.
Andrea's younger son, Giuseppe Giovanni Battista Guarneri (25 November 1666 - 1739 or 1740), known as filius Andreae, joined his father's business in Cremona. He inherited it in 1698. He is one of the great violin makers.
Giuseppe Giovanni Battista was father to two other instrument makers: Pietro Guerneri who settled in Venice and Bartolomeo.
Pietro Guarneri (Peter of Venice or Pietro da Venezia) (14 April 1695 - 7 April 1762) made some instruments that are as great as those of his father. One of his cellos was played by Beatrice Harrison.
Bartolomeo Giuseppe Guarneri (del Gesù), also known as Joseph (21 August 1698 - 17 October 1744), has been called the finest violin maker of the Amati line (Amati and his pupils). Giuseppe is known as del Gesù because his labels always have the characters I.H.S. (iota-eta-sigma) and a Roman cross. His instruments are different from the others made by his family. They are thought of as the greatest violins with the exception of those by Stradivari. The famous violin virtuoso Niccolò Paganini’s favorite instrument was a Guarneri del Gesù violin of 1743. The "Lord Wilton" Guarneri del Gesù violin made in 1742 was owned by Yehudi Menuhin and other Twentieth-century 'del Gesù' players have included, Arthur Grumiaux, Jascha Heifetz, Isaac Stern and Henryk Szeryng.