A violin made by the famous luthier Giuseppe 'del Gesu' Guarneri has fetched a price of $9.44 million (£7.74 million) at auction in the US - a record for a violin made by Guarneri.


The circa 1731 ‘Baltic’ Guarneri was sold by auctioneers Tarisio on 16 March. The sale price was the third-highest auction sale price ever achieved for a musical instrument. The instrument also went for more than double the previous record for a Guarneri instrument sold at auction.

The ‘Baltic’ was previously a part of the family collection of Asian-American businessman Sau-Wing Lam (1923-1988). A musician and collector, Sau-Wing Lam also supported young musicians throughout his lifetime.

Guarneri violin
Violinist Stefan Jackiw plays the Guarneri 'Baltic' violin at Tarisio Auctions. Pics: Getty Images

‘To sell this extraordinary violin for nearly triple the previous auction record price for a Guarneri demonstrates the strength of global demand for rare and historic musical instruments,’ said Carlos Tomé, Tarisio’s director and head of sales. ‘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 instrument was previously seen, alongside 25 other Guarneri violins, in a 1994 exhibition of Guarneri’s work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The catalogue for that show noted that the 'Baltic' represents ‘the first fruit of new ideas, heralding a new phase in del Gesù’s career’.

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The instrument is now the most expensive Guarneri ever sold at auction. If private sales are taken into account, however, the most expensive Guarneri ever sold is the ‘Vieuxtemps’, which fetched more than $15.9 million in a private sale in 2013. That instrument is now played by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, who has it on a lifetime loan.

Another famous Guarneri instrument is the 1741 'Kreisler' violin, so named because the famous violinist Fritz Kreisler was a previous owner (from 1904-17). That one should not be confused with the 1733 'Kreisler' Guarneri, another 'del Gesù' previously owned by Kreisler and now owned by the Library of Congress in Washington DC.


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Steve Wright
Steve WrightMulti-Platform Content Producer, BBC Music Magazine

Steve has been an avid listener of classical music since childhood, and now contributes a variety of features to BBC Music’s magazine and website. He started writing about music as Arts Editor of an Oxford University student newspaper and has continued ever since, serving as Arts Editor on various magazines.