As you might know, high-quality violins do not come cheap. In an attempt to satisfy your curiosity on this topic, we have written an article about some of the most expensive violins that have been sold up to this date. So, keep reading to find out!
The Titanic Violin
We are all familiar with the tragic history of the Titanic. However, this violin’s story is even more dramatic. The instrument was manufactured by Arthur Catton Lancaster, and it was used by the famous bandleader Wallace Hartley to play “Nearer, My God, to Thee” as the ship was actually sinking.
On top of that, it seems like this violin was an engagement present that Hartley had received from his fiancée, Maria. Although the current owner of this piece memorabilia is not known, he/she paid no less than $1.7 million on it in 2013, at the time of the auction.
The Lady Tennant
Stradivari violins are not cheap. The Lady Tennant is an instrument created in 1699 by the famous instrument maker and it is regarded as one of the few violins that pre-date his golden-period of creation.
Previous owners of the violin were Charles Philippe Lafont, a renowned French composer and Charles Clow Tennant, a politician that presented it as a gift to his wife, Marguerite, an amateur violinist.
In 2005, this model was auctioned for 2.032.000 dollars. This instrument was played on by Yang Liu, Xiang Gao, and Yossif Ivanov.
The Hammer Stradivarius
Another expensive antique violin made by Antonius Stradivarius is the Hammer, an instrument that was manufactured in 1707. The violin was named after Christian Hammer, a 19th-century Swedish collector that was officially recorded as its first owner.
The Hammer Stradivarius was transported to America in 1911, and it was acquired by a Japanese oil company in 1992. The violin was given on loan to Kyoko Takezawa, a violinist that played on it for 12 years.
What is more, this instrument made news in 2006 when it was sold at an auction for US$3.54 million. It had a pre-auction estimated value of 1.5 to 2.5 million US dollars. This model was played on by Kyoko Takezawa.
The Molitor Stradivarius
This model is currently owned by concert violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, and it was made by Stradivarius in 1697. What makes it so unique is that it is believed to have been owned by Napoleon Bonaparte. The instrument was previously owned by Juliette Récamier, a Parisian socialite and then by count Gabriel Jean Joseph Molitor.
The Molitor Stradivarius remained in the count’s family until WWI, when it was sold by several Parisian firms. Another well-known owner of the violin was William Anderson of Derry, who purchased it in 1957. He is said to have kept it under his bed until his death in 1988. Afterward, the instrument was offered as a donation to the Red Cross.
The Molitor was owned by Elmar Oliveira, an American violinist and by Albert I. Stern. The current owner, Anne Akiko Meyers, purchased it in 2010 for the sum of $3.6 million, at the time, the highest price ever paid for a musical instrument.
Il Cannone Guarnerius
This violin was fabricated in 1743 by another Italian luthier, Giuseppe Antonio Guarneri of Cremona. This instrument was used by Niccolò Paganini, a violin virtuoso from the 19th century. Il Cannone is the violin that Paganini played on in his final years. Before his death, he willed it to the city of Genoa, in Italy.
The model is exhibited in the Genoa town hall, and it was ensured for 4 million dollars. However, it is said to be at least four times as expensive. Il Cannone Guarnerius is played annually by the winner of the Premio Paganini, an international violin competition.
It was played on by Eugene Fodor, Shlomo Mintz, Regina Carter and it is highly appreciated for its power and extraordinary resonance.
The Lord Wilton
Lord Wilton or the ex-Yehudi Menuhin was created in 1742 by Guarneri, and it was named after the Seymour Egerton, 4th Earl of Wilton, a musician that owned it in the 19th century.
The model was also owned by Yehudi Menuhin from 1978 to 1999. After his death, the instrument was actually sold for $6 million US dollars to David L. Fulton, a private collector.
The Mary Portman
Made in 1735 by Guarneri Del Gesu, this instrument carries the name of Mary Isabel Portman, the builder of “The Kranzbach Castle.”
The violin was played on by Adele Anthony and Fritz Kreisler, and it is currently in the possession of Susanne Hou. The cost of The Mary Portman is settled at $10.000.000.
The Ex-Kochanski Guarneri, 1741, was used by Aaron Rosand for up to 40 years. This choice is particularly appreciated for its excellent condition. As a result, the model is considered to be worth 10.000.000$.
The Carrodus Guarneri was made in 1743 by Guarneri Del Gesu, and it is said to have been made form the same tree as the II Cannone. This unit was made by the violin maker just one year before his death.
The model first belonged to a Viennese player and, in the 19th century, was acquired by David Laurie, a Scottish dealer. The unit was sold multiple times, and it carries the name of an English violinist, John Carrodus, who played on it until his death in 1895.
The violin’s current owner is not known, but the instrument is played on by Richard Tognetti, an Australian violinist. The Carrodus was also performed on by Ossy Renardy and by Paganini.
The Vieuxtemps Guarneri
The Vieuxtemps Guarneri is the most expensive violin ever sold, as it has an auction price of more than 16,000,000. However, the exact amount that its current owner had to pay was not disclosed.
This model got its name from Henri Vieuxtemps, a 19th-century violinist. The current owner loaned the Vieuxtemps Guarneri to violinist Anne Akiko Meyers for the rest of her life.
If this article has stirred your desire to practice, but you need a digital violin tuner, take a look at the article that we have put together for you.
At a price of more than $20,000,000, the Messiah Stradivarius is well worth its name since it is currently the most expensive violin to have ever been crafted by Antonio Stradivari. It dates back to 1716 and, while it may not be the oldest violin in the world, it is certainly one of the best crafted and most famous.
The main reason for the price of this instrument has a lot to do with its maker since Antonio Stradivari was a world-renowned maker of some of the best and most expensive violins. The Messiah Stradivarius was created during his golden period, and it didn’t leave his shop until his death 21 years later.
Since it hasn’t been played with as much as the other expensive violins on the list, the Messiah is still in a relatively new condition. This has helped boost its price since it is one of the best-preserved violins crafted by Stradivari.
Notable violinists such as Jean-Delphin Alard, Joseph Joachim, and Natham Milstein have tried the instrument, and even contemporary musicians such as Francisco Fullana would dream of playing the Messiah.
Currently, the Messiah is a historic instrument and has been displayed at the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford, England from 1939 until today so that anyone can admire the beauty of this violin.
The 1721 Lady Blunt is right there with the 1716 Messiah Stradivarius as one of the best-preserved violins since both are in almost perfect condition. At a price of around $16,000,000, this is certainly in the top 5 of the most expensive violins, and its name comes from Lady Anne Blunt, who was the first known owner of the instrument.
Just as the Messiah, since this is a collector instrument, it has spent most of its time being displayed, which helps explain why it has been able to retain so much of its original condition. While the current owner is not known, we are certain that famous violinists such as Itzhak Perlman or Pinchas Zukerman would love to try this exquisite instrument.
What makes this violin stand out even more is the fact that very few people have listened to it and little has been written about its sound, which makes this instrument a bit of a mystery, especially considering its price.
While a violin will sound at its best when played regularly, it won’t spoil if it’s unplayed for a long period. This means that, since the Lady Blunt is preserved so well, it retains its full acoustic potential and future generations might be able to enjoy and discover its sound someday.
La Pucelle Stradivari
This beautiful violin is also known as The Virgin, and it is a Stradivari creation from 1709. Its name comes from a Parisian luthier called Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume. He was the one to discover the instrument that until then remained untouched ever since it left Stradivari’s shop. It is currently worth around $6,000,000.
This violin could have been worth considerably more, were it not for a small detail. The instrument has indeed been crafted by Stradivari, but the tailpiece, which has a carving of Joan of Arc, has been crafted by Vuillaume who has also made the carved pegs that feature a very elaborate design.
Despite these small additions, La Pucelle Stradivari has remained unchanged ever since, and the current owner is a collector named David L. Fulton. You might be familiar with David L. Fulton since he also owns the Lord Wilton violin, another expensive instrument that is known for being played by Yehudi Menuhin.
Fulton is very proud of this historic instrument and calls it one of the finest items in his collection since it has no signs of cracks, worn edges or corners, and no retouchings.
This is even more impressive once you take a look at the actual instrument which is practically weightless. It is quite surprising that an instrument as delicate as this one managed to survive and look almost as new more than three centuries later.
This is yet another Stradivarius violin that is currently priced at $6,000,000 and was made in 1714. The name of the instrument was given by its first owner, George Hart, due to the shape, color, and appearance of the violin, which reminded him of a dolphin.
The instrument is currently owned by the Nippon Music Foundation, and it is on loan to the renowned violinist Akiko Suwanai. The Dolphin Stradivari is famous for its tonal quality, and it has been played by the famous virtuoso Jascha Heifetz.
Even to this day, and despite being played quite a lot, the instrument is in very good shape and, along with the Messiah, it is among the top three violins made by Stradivari.
This instrument is also known under the name of Ludwig, and it is a violin crafted by Stradivarius in 1724. The instrument has achieved a premium price of around $6,000,000, which places it in line with other Stradivarius violins from this period.
The original label of the instrument reads “Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis faciebat Anno 1724”, and the violin is known for its beauty and finesse. Over the years, it has made its way in the hands of many violinists, but in 1989 it was bought by Landeskreditbank Baden Württemberg and it can still be found there to this day.
While not as expensive as the rest of the instruments on our list, the Ex-Ries Stradivari is still worth a mention since, with a value of around $3,500,000, it is still absurdly expensive. It was crafted by Stradivarius in his shop in Cremona in 1693. It has a one-piece back, with a fine grain top and a reddish-brown varnish and it still looks beautiful and well-preserved today.
Some of the known players of this violin include names such as Franz Riles and Catherine Wade Smith. Currently, the violin has been awarded to the famous Hungarian violinist, Joszef Lendvay.
The 1727 ‘Kreutzer’ Stradivarius
This instrument is named after the French violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer, one of the violin’s first owners. It was the first violin in the world that shocked both violinists and the wide public with its price. In 1998, the art collector George Kress put the instrument on auction and sold it for $1,600,000.
The price may not seem that high, considering that there are plenty of other instruments that are much more expensive than this one, but it is worth considering that Kress had purchased the instrument in 1958 for just $24,000. At that time, this purchase set the world record for string instruments at Christie’s Auction House in London.
Ever since then, the instrument hasn’t changed owners. Some of the known players that have used the ‘Kreutzer’ Stradivarius include names such as Rudolphe Kreutzer and Maxim Vengerov.
The ‘Lady Tennant-Lafont’ Stradivarius
This exquisite violin was crafted in 1699 by Antonio Stradivari, and it has first belonged to the violinist Charles Phillippe Lafont who was a student of Rodolphe Kreutzer. The violin was later on bought by a wealthy Scottish businessman in 1990 who gave it to his wife, who was an amateur violinist.
The violin stayed there until 2005 when it was auctioned at Christie’s Auction House and bought by the Stradivari Society of Chicago for over $2,032,000. The society later on entrusted the instrument to the renowned Chinese violinist Liu Yang in 2007. Later on, in 2009, the instrument went to violinist Yossif Ivanov.
Other known players that have used the Lady Tennant-Lafont’ Stradivarius include names such as Ulf Hoelscher and Xiang Gao.
The violin has a one-piece back with a narrow curl that ascends slightly from left to right. The top has a fine grain in the center and the varnish is of a golden brown. Even to this day, the instrument is in very good shape and people who have played and listened to it say it has a very rich sound.
Another interesting detail is the fact that the instrument still carries an engraved lock plate that has Lady Tennant-Lafont’s name and address.
The Dorothy Delay Guadagnini
The ‘Dorothy Delay’ was crafted back in 1778 by Giovanni Battista Guadagninim, an Italian luthier, and its name comes from its first owner, Dorothy Delay, who was a famous American violinist and teacher.
Delay acted as an assistant to Ivan Galamain at the Juilliard School of Music, the same place where Itzhak Perlman was studying. She taught the violin to famous violinists such as Gil Shaham, Jean-François Rivest, Albery Stern, and Nigel Kennedy before starting her own school.
The violin was auctioned in 2013 for nearly $1,390,999, and it set the record for the most expensive Guadagnini violin. The ‘Dorothy Delay’ Guadagnini was played by virtuoso Itzhak Perlman and many of Delay’s pupils.
The instrument is a strong example of the late Turin Guadagnino and, while it may not be as renowned as other instruments made by more illustrious luthiers, the ‘Dorothy Delay’ Guadagnini has a long history that is tightly connected to its owner. Its tone is also sought by players and connoisseurs for its originality.