February 19, 2008 Violins created by Antonio Stradivarius have, in the eyes of collectors and instrumental experts, never been bettered. Hailed for their superlative tonal quality and superior craftsmanship, owning a Stradivarius instrument has over the centuries been an obsessive ambition for many players. With only 650 Stradivari instruments in existence today, the news that a violin by the world’s most celebrated craftsman is for sale will be music to collectors and performers ears alike.
A mystery however hangs over this remarkable instrument … at some point the front of the violin was removed, possibly in a bid to create two instruments bearing the hallmark of the revolutionary violinmaker. The violin, which is estimated to fetch UKP120,000-180,000, will go under the hammer in the Bonhams Fine Musical Instruments sale on in London on March 10.
The violin to be sold by Bonhams was made at the height of what is considered to be Stradivari’s golden period of violin making and long before the birth of Mozart, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky and many other important composers. Although Stradivari had no prior knowledge of what was to come after him, his instruments adapted beautifully to the new world of repertoire, orchestration and technique and continue today to be considered the best violins ever made.
This extraordinary violin is testimony to the extreme desirability of Stradivari’s work. Whilst the back of the violin dates to 1720 and can be attributed to Stradivarius, its front was clearly added later in the 19th century. The mystery as to what became of the original front half of the violin remains. Philip Scott, Head of the Musical Instruments Department at Bonhams believes that the violin may well have been deliberately divided in order to create two instruments that bore the legendary Stradivarius hallmark:” Such was, and indeed still is, the hunger to possess a Stradivarius that someone may well have conceived the idea to try and create two violins out of the one instrument”
Scott discovered the violin, which has remained in the same family for three generations, on a valuation day in Europe and immediately recognized the significance of the instrument, saying “the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end when I saw it”.