Italian artist Leonardo Frigo uses string instruments as the foundation for ornate narrative paintings. His one-of-a-kind work embellishes the surfaces of violins and cellos with bold designs, striking symbols, and embedded text. These creative additions make the pieces not only functional as musical instruments but as storybooks, too.
Before moving to London, Frigo received a degree in art restoration from Università Internazionale dell’Arte in Venice, Italy. He studied the violin for five years and experimented with various ways of removing the varnish and adorning the surface underneath. Once the artist found the right consistency of specialized India ink, which would flow well from his dip pen but remain black and durable, he engaged in ambitious illustration projects. Frigo maintains his meticulous artistic practice today, and it can take him an average of three weeks drawing on each violin. Once he’s done illustrating, he ensures the instruments’ quality and longevity by applying varnish and reattaching the strings.
Among Frigo’s most celebrated works are depictions of the “Seven Deadly Sins” and the “Four Seasons,” which have been exhibited across Europe and Asia, including Italy, South Korea, France, and England. Currently, he is four years into his largest undertaking yet: illustrating the entirety of Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, featuring one violin for each of the 33 cantos as well as one cello. He intends to complete the project by 2021 for the 700-year anniversary of Dante’s death.
Scroll down to see more decorated violins by Frigo and follow the artist on Instagram to keep up to date with his latest creations. Frigo’s embellished instruments are available for purchase via his website.