Giovanni Francesco Pressenda was born in Lequio Berria, Italy in 1777. His father Raffaello was a musician and a luthier, and so Pressenda was immersed in the world of music from the beginning of his life. Though he likely worked on a farm in his young adulthood, he claimed to have also studied violin-making with Lorenzo Storioni in Cremona, Italy around that time. In 1814, Pressenda moved to Alba, Italy. In Alba he worked as a craftsman, making cabinets, jewelry, and violins. Two years later he moved to Carmognola to work at the Marseilles violin workshop, where he refined his skills as a luthier and began to gain a reputation as a talented violin maker. It’s most likely this experience was his first formal training as a luthier rather than with Storioni.
Pressenda moved to Turin, Italy in 1820 and opened his own violin shop in 1832. In Turin, Pressenda became associated with and inspired by many profoundly successful luthiers including Alessandro D’Espine and Gaetano Guadagnini II. As an independent luthier, Pressenda experimented with more individualistic styles that would eventually become standard in the Turin school. His varnish and scroll design were particularly unique. He often used one-piece backs and scrolls with a scribed center line. The ornamentation on his instruments often involved purfling of beech. Two of his violins won copper medals in the Turin exposition of 1829 and in an exposition in 1932. He won silver medals in 1838, 1844, and 1850.
Later in his career, he trained several young violin makers including Giuseppe Rocca and Annibale Fagnola. Pressenda died in Turin in 1854. Pressenda’s violins became incredibly valuable in Northern Italy after his death when famous soloists Giovanni Battista Polledro and August Wilhelmj started favoring his instruments. He eventually became regarded as one of the most talented Italian makers of the 19th century.