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Guarneri 'Baltic' Violin Sold At Auction For $9.44 Million
An extraordinary violin, created by the famous luthier Giuseppe 'del Gesù' Guarneri in 1731, fetched a staggering $9.44 million (€8.75 million) at auction in the United States.
An extraordinary violin, created by the famous luthier Giuseppe 'del Gesu' Guarneri in 1731, was auctioned in the United States for a record $9.44 million, becoming the third most expensive instrument ever sold at auction and the Guarneri most expensive ever sold.

Known as the Guarneri'Baltic', this tool was sold by Tarisio (https://tarisio.com) on March 16th. The sale price more than doubled the previous record for a Guarneri instrument sold at auction. The 'Baltic' was formerly part of the family collection of Asian-American businessman and musician Sau-Wing Lam (1923-1988), also known for his support of young musicians.

Carlos Tomé, director and head of sales at Tarisio, said: “Selling this extraordinary violin for almost triple the previous auction record for a Guarneri demonstrates the strong global demand for rare and historic musical instruments. We are delighted to have been entrusted with the sale of the 'Baltic' and to celebrate the legacy of Sau-Wing Lam, one of the great benefactors and collectors in the field of classical music. "

The 'Baltic' has already been exhibited, together with 25 other Guarneri violins, in a 1994 exhibition dedicated to Guarneri's work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The catalog of that exhibition emphasized that the 'Baltic' represents “the first fruit of new ideas, heralding a new phase in Guarneri's career.”

When looking at private sales, however, the most expensive Guarneri ever sold is the 'Vieuxtemps', which fetched over $15.9 million in a private sale in 2013. That instrument is now played by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, who has on loan for life.

Another famous Guarneri instrument is the 1741 'Kreisler' violin, so named because the famous violinist Fritz Kreisler owned it (from 1904 to 1917). It should not be confused with the 1733 Guarneri 'Kreisler', another 'del Gesu' previously owned by Kreisler and now owned by the Library of Congress in Washington DC.

There is more

In the photo, violinist Lisa Batiashvili plays the 'Baltic' which will be auctioned March 15-16 at Tarisio New York.

Other information

The Guarneri del Gesu violin, known as the "Baltic", is a treasure of Italian violin making, a masterpiece sculpted by the talent and temperament of the young Guarneri del Gesu.

The history of this exceptional instrument has been known since the 20th century. Belonging to the ancient Baltic Giese family, it has crossed oceans and continents, passing from hand to hand among collectors, musicians and luthiers. From luthier Phillip Hammig to Walter Sochaczeski, from E. Clem Wilson to Irving Levick, each owner has left a mark on the history of this instrument.

In 1971, the "Baltic" entered the collection of the Californian George Gade, alongside other masterpieces such as the "Cessol" Stradivarius. It was then purchased by the famous Canadian soloist Steve Starzy, who used it for numerous concerts and recordings. The Guarneri “Baltic” has become an icon, photographed on the cover of the album “Maestri dell'archetto, Baton Series” and published in Walter Hamma's volume “Maestri Liutai Italiani”, albeit with an incorrect date of 1730. In 1994, it was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in the exhibition "Masterpieces of Guarneri del Gesù", and is currently on display in the exhibition "Rare Italian Stringed Instruments from the Sau-Wing Lam Collection" until June 30th.

The violin is distinguished by its broad curl and radially cut maple back. The soundboard, made of spruce, has a regular grain, while the maple of the hedgehog and of the upper bands has homogeneous tones. Beautifully preserved, the "Baltico" still has the original red-brown paint on a golden background. It is an extraordinary testimony to the early work of Guarneri del Gesù, with unique distinctive features, such as the upper table made with two different pieces of spruce and the scroll made by the luthier himself and not by his father.

The Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù, Cremona, 1731 ex “Baltic” violin is more than a musical instrument; it is a piece of history, a work of art, and a living testament to the craftsmanship and innovation in Italian lutherie.

To know more

Andrea Amati: a turning point in the history of violin making

The violin has deep roots in the Italian violin making tradition . . .

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