12 Most Expensive Violins Ever Sold
Most expensive violin ever sold includes Messiah by Stradivari, Vieuxtemps by Guarneri, and ten more. Messiah alone costs over $20 million.
The violin is a string instrument that is sometimes also known as the fiddle. It is the smallest instrument in the violin family that also includes the viola, cello, and upright bass.
Due to its property as the smallest in the family, it is also the highest-pitched. The violin has often been seen as the most prominent instrument in the Western classical tradition, and music has been made for the violin both in ensembles like the orchestra and chamber music and also as a solo instrument.
Among all the most expensive musical instruments, Violins stand out the most.
It is precisely due to the instrument's prominence that crafters have been attempting to create the perfect violin.
Among them, two craftsmen, Antonio Stradivari, and Guarneri del Desu reign supreme as having created the twelve most expensive violins.
The 12 Most Expensive Violins With Their Price
|12. The Molitor||$3.6 Million|
|11. The Il Cannone||$4 Million|
|10. The Ex-Szigeti||$6 Million|
|9. The Dolphin||$6 Million|
|8. The La Pucelle||$6 Million|
|7. The Lord Wilton||$6 Million|
|6. The Mary Portman||$10 Million|
|5. The Ex-Kochanski||$10 Million|
|4. The Carrodus||$10 Million|
|3. The Lady Blunt||$15.9 Million|
|2. The Vieeuxtemps||$16 Million|
|1. The Messiah||$20 Million|
12. The Molitor by Antonio Stradivari
Most expensive violin ever sold list started with The Molitor by Antonio Stradivari. It was most recently sold for $3.6 million on October 14, 2010.
At the time of its sale, the Molitor was the highest auction ever paid for any musical instrument in 2011. It was created by Antonio Stradivari, who is often thought of as one of the greatest luthiers in the history of the craft.
Stradivari created the instrument in 1697, which marks the beginning of what is widely called his Golden period, as during this time the luthier created many of his most remembered instruments, most of which can also be found on this list.
The instrument has had many prominent owners beginning with French political leader Napoleon Bonaparte, Parisian socialite Juliette Recamier, Count Gabriel Jean Joseph Molitor, William Anderson of Derry, violinist Elmar Oliveira, Albert I. Stern, and most recently, Anne Akiko Meyers, who purchased it through Tarisio Auctions at the above-mentioned date.
11. The Il Cannone by Guarneri del Gesu
The Il Cannone is the eleventh most expensive violin and was sold for $4 million. It is made by Guarneri del Gesu, Stradivari's rival.
All the violins on this list are made by either Stradivari or Guarneri and there is a reason for that. The two Italian luthiers made some of the most well-regarded violins in the history of the instrument.
However, the Il Cannone is an exception to the talents of Guarneri because it is actually a neglected violin the luthier made sometime in 1743. It gained its exceptional reputation through its most prominent owner, the Italian violin virtuoso, Niccolo Paganini.
Paganini had lost a valuable violin through gambling when an amateur violinist gave him the Il Cannone. Paganini then played only this instrument for the rest of his life, which gives it the legendary status it now has.
It is currently exhibited alongside many other memorabilia belonging to Paganini at the Palazzo Doria-Tursia in Genoa, a metropolitan city in Italy. The violin is often shipped to other places for temporary display.
10. The Ex-Szigeti by Stradivari
The Ex-Szigeti is another violin by Antonio Stradivari priced at $6 million. It was created by the luthier in 1724.
The violin is also known by the name Ludwig after a 19th-century German violinist Joseph Ludwig, who in turn is known as a former pupil of the prominent Joseph Joachim. Ludwig gained further prominence after he became a naturalized British citizen and rose to become the head of the violin division at the London Academy of Music.
The violin is also called the Ex-Szigeti due to its owners before Ludwig. These owners were famed Hungarian violinists Joseph Szigeti and Deszgo Szigeti, and thus the violin got its major name.
The violin itself is known for its finesse and beauty despite how many people have owned it in the centuries since the instrument has been in use. Its original name can be gleaned from an inscription it bears from the luthier itself, which states "Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis faciebat Anno 1724."
It is currently owned by L-Bank Baden Wurttemberg, who bought the violin in 1989.
9. The Dolphin by Stradivari
The Dolphin is ninth-most expensive and is priced at $6 million. It was created by Stradivari in 1714.
Also known as the Delfiono Stradivarius, it gets its popular name Dolphin, from George Hart, the second known person to own it. He gave the violin the catchy name due to the shape of its back, which the owner thought resembled a dolphin.
Since then, the violin has gone through many hands, but the most prominent one was in 1951 when it was acquired by the famed virtuoso violinist, Jascha Heifetz, a Russian-born American, who played the instrument for his entire life until he passed away in 1951.
Currently, the violin is owned by the Nippon Music Foundation in Japan, which has in turn given it on loan to the Taiwanese-Australian violinist Ray Chen. Aside from its history, the instrument is also known for its delicate nature as it famously needs caution when it comes to its maintenance to retain its glossy, dolphin-like sheen.
8. The La Pucelle by Stradivari
The La Pucelle of The Virgin is also priced at $6 million as of 2023. It was created by Stradivari in 1709.
Its name was given to it by the Parisian 19th-century luthier and dealer, Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume. He gave the instrument its famous name when he dissembled it for maintenance and found that it had remained untouched since Stradivari had made it over a hundred years ago.
Like the Moliter, La Pucelle is remembered as being one of the first violins that Stradivari made during his Golden period. As for Vuillaume, he added himself to the history of the instrument when he created a tailpiece for the instrument in which he carved an image of a woman in armor, like Joan of arc, alongside carved pegs.
The instrument is presently owned by the collector David L. Fulton and is his favorite possession. The collector has stated that he believes it to be not only one of the finest in his possession but also one of the best instruments Stradivari ever made.
7. The Lord Wilton by Guarneri
The Lord Wilton is a violin created by Guarneri del Gesu and priced at $6 million. It was crafted by the Italian luthier in 1742.
Made in the city of Cremona, the violin gets its name from its 19th-century owner, Seymour Egerton, who was the 4th Earl of Wilton. Wilton is famous for being both a musician and an associate of English composer Arthur Sullivan.
The violin is also sometimes called ex-Yehudi Menuhin after its previous owner, the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, who played and performed with the instrument from 1978 until his death in 1999. The American-born British violinist is considered to be one of the best violinists of the 20th century.
However, Menuhin isn't the only prominent violinist who has owned the instrument as Croatian violinist, Zlatko Balokovic owned and played the instrument from 1952 to 1961. Currently, as of 2015, it is owned by David L. Fulton, who also owns the Dolphin, and remains in his possession.
6. The Mary Portman by Guarneri
The Mary Portman is the sixth most expensive violin priced at $10 million. It was also created by Guarneri, who crafted it in 1735.
It gets its name from Mary Isabel Portman, an English noblewoman, and violinist who got the violin from Fritz Kreisler. Kriesler owned many instruments from Guarneri and as such, the instrument is remembered by Portman's name.
As of the writing of this article, the violin is owned by Francisco Fullana, a Spanish-born violinist. However, it is on loan from the Stradivari Society.
The reason this violin is one of the most beloved ones on this list is due to what many think is the hypnotizing tune it carries. In fact, of all the violins on this list, the Mary Portman is known for the music it produces above all else.
Fullman, a well-regarded young artist, continues to use the violin in his performances and has become as attached to it as its previous users and owners. Since he has been granted the long-term use of the instrument, it will belong to him for quite a while.
5. The Kochanski by Guarneri
The Kocahnski is another violin that is priced at over $10 million. It was also created by Guarneri del Gesu.
The instrument is well regarded chiefly due to its color as it has a deep red varnish, which has made it quite popular even purely for aesthetic reasons. However, the main reason it is called the Kochanski, or the ex-Kochanski is due to one of its early owners, the Polish violinist Paul Kochanski.
Both Kochanski and the violin's later owner Amercian violinist Aaron Rosand owned and used it for almost all of their lives. As for Rosand, he sold the violin to an as-of-yet unidentified Russian collector.
Rosand in return had bought the violin from the Curtis Institute of Music. One of the reasons the violin has been priced so high consistently is due to the remarkable state of preservation it still remains in.
Despite having existed for over hundreds of years, the violin has not lost its garnish. The main reason behind that is the fact that it features parts from many of Guarneri's additional violins.
4. The Carrodus by Guarneri
The Carrodus by Guarneri is also priced at $10 million as of 2023. The Italian luthier crafted the instrument in 1743.
It is widely regarded as one of Guarneri's most beautiful pieces and is especially beloved for its glorious craftsmanship. This fact puts the violin in direct opposition to another of Guarneri's pieces on this list, the Il Cannone, because the two were made from the same tree.
It goes to show the strength of that tree as these two violins, of different levels of skill put upon them by Guarneri, still ended up on the same list.
The violin gained its name from its once-owner, the English violinist John Carrodus. As such, it is sometimes called the ex-Carrodus, but the name is not as focused on other violins because it has had many prominent owners like Ossy Renardy and Niccolo Paganini.
The Carrodus is currently owned by the creative director and leader of the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Richard Tognetti. Tognetti is deeply enamored by the violin and has called it delightful, deep, and mysterious.
3. The Lady Blunt by Stradivari
The Lady Blunt is the third most expensive violin at $15.9 million. It was created by Stradivari and is considered one of his finest.
Alongside the Messiah, it is the best-preserved violin that Stradivari made, and one of the biggest reasons why is that it is not played as collectors tend to keep it locked more often than not. It has been owned by some prominent owners like Jean Baptiste Vuillaume and Robert Lowe.
However, the instrument got its name from its most popular owner, Lady Anne Blunt, who is famous for being the daughter of Ada Lovelace, the world's first computer programmer. Lovelace herself was also famous for being the daughter of the legendary poet, Lord Byron.
One of the violin's most recent owners the Nippon Music Foundation had to sell it in 2011 after having bought it in 2008 for $10 million due to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and Tsunami. An unknown party bought the violin from the foundation's relief fund for over $15.9 million.
2. The Vieuxtemps by Guarneri
The Vieuxtemps is the second most expensive violin and is priced at $16 million. It was created by Guarneri and is considered his finest.
Like many others on this list, the violin got its name from one of its early owners, the prominent Belgian composer, and violinist, Henri Vieuxtemps. The Belgian owned it a hundred years after Guarneri made it around 1741.
Aside from Vieuxtemps, the violin has been used by many prominent musicians like the above-mentioned Yehudi Menuhin, Israeli-American Itzhak Perlman, and Pinchas Zukerman. Despite its many owners and centuries of history, the violin has remained in immaculate condition and has never required any patching at all.
Due to this quality of the instrument, it is thought to be one of the best examples of standing waves in string instruments. However, on the downside, the violin and its immaculate condition have been thought to have started the trend of putting instruments in museums rather than being used to play.
1. The Messiah by Stradivari
The Messiah is the most expensive violin sold and is priced at $20 million. It was created by Antonio Stradivari in 1716.
The instrument remained in the luthier's workshop until his death and was then sold by his son to a count named Cozio di Salabue in 1775. Due to his ownership, the violin was called Salabue for a brief time.
It changed hands in 1827 when it was purchased by Luigi Tarisio, and upon his death, the Parisian dealer Jean Baptiste Vuillaume got his hands on it. The violin got its famous nickname when Vuillaume was discussing the instrument with Tarisio, and his son-in-law, Jean-Delphin Alard, overhearing their talk, likened it to the Messiah of the Jews.
As the violin was seldom-played, it is still in almost new condition, to the point where people have questioned its tonal potential. However, famous violinist Joseph Joachin played the instrument in 1891 and wrote to its then-owner, Robert Crawford, that its sound was both sweet and grand.
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