Violinist and composer Nicola Matteis described himself as ‘Napolitano’ in several of his works, but nothing is known about his origins or education. He arrived in England in the early 1670s. On 20 November 1674 John Evelyn made an enthusiastic note in his diary. Having dined at Slingsby House at the Strand, home of Henry Slingsby, Master of the Mint, he had enjoyed a private concert in which Mattheis excelled (a Frenchman played the lute, an Italian the harpsichord, and a German the viol d’amore: music in London was a cosmopolitan experience).
He became the first notable Italian Baroque violinist in the capital. In 1676 Matteis published his Arie diverse per il violino, a collection of 120 pieces for solo violin and continuo bass. A second edition appeared two years later with an English title-page together and containing a further seventy pieces. These publications helped establish the skill of engraving music in England.
In 1685, he published the third and fourth parts of the Ayres for the Violin, which was followed by an expanded second edition in 1687. In 1700 he married a rich widow and retired from the musical scene. Having squandered his wealth, he died in poverty sometime after 1713. Matteis is credited with changing the English taste for violin playing from the French to the Italian style.