Although most music historians rely on artwork to try to date when the violin was first created, Peter Holman sought to establish the date of the violin's inception by examining how the early violin was used and played. He observed that in sixteenth century art music, melodic instruments were made in coordinated sets of several sizes (often three or four sizes pitched a fourth or fifth apart), and that these families of instruments were called consorts. Holman determined that the first usage of the violin was in a consort, and he concluded that the violin family emerged between 1495-1505 in Ferrara, Italy. Violin music seems to support Holman's assertion, because the majority of violin music from the 16th and early 17th centuries appears to be for violin consorts, and it was not until the mid-17th century that solo repertoire for the violin developed.  It is also interesting to note that solo repertory for the cello did not emerge until the late 17th century, and although there were a few incidents of solo music being written for the viola in the 17th century, it wasn’t until the mid-18th century that solo repertory for the viola emerged.
Figure 1.10 is an illustration of members of a violin consort, the instruments found in the violin family: violin (soprano violin), viola (alto-tenor violin) and violoncello (bass violin, also known as the cello). Another instrument, the double bass or contrabass is also often considered to be part of the violin family, but music scholars have differing views whether or not the double bass came from the violin family or the viol family, and for this reason it has not been included in this discussion.
Fig. 1.10 Violin Family, 1619