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Guarneri ‘Baltic’ Violin Auctions for $9.44 Million

Made by luthier Giuseppe 'del Gesù Guarneri in 1731, the instrument was sold by auctioneers at Tarisio for a record breaking price

The circa 1731 ‘Baltic’ Guarneri was sold by Tarisio in the United States last week. The sale marked two records — it is the third most expensive instrument ever sold at an auction and the instrument went for more than double the previous record for a Guarneri sold at auction.

The ‘Baltic’ was previously a part of the family collection of Asian-American businessman Sau-Wing Lam, who lived from 1923-1988. He acquired the instrument in 1979, adding it to his collection of fine Italian instruments and French bows.

Before Sau-Wing Lam, the violin was acquired by Canadian violinist Steven Staryk, who performed and recorded frequently on the instrument. Other previous owners included California collector George Gad, New York collector Irving Levick, and American violinist Dorotha Powers, among others. Throughout its journey, the instrument was also associated with dealers such as W. E. Hill & Sons and the Wurlitzer Company.

The violin is named after "an old Baltic family by the name of von Giese which no longer exists," according to a letter from Berlin violin dealer Philipp Hammig to Rudolph Wurlitzer in 1946.

In 1994, the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibited 26 instruments of Guarneri’s output. According to the Met catalog from the exhibition, the instrument represents ‘the first fruit of new ideas, heralding a new phase in del Gesù’s career."

"We are delighted to have been entrusted with the sale of this extraordinary violin, and to celebrate the legacy of Sau-Wing Lam, one of the great benefactors and collectors in the field of classical music," Tarisio wrote on social media.

"The top three auction prices for stringed instruments have now all been realized at Tarisio: the 'Lady Blunt' Stradivari for $15.9 million in 2011, the 'da Vinci' Stradivari for $15.34 million in 2022, and the 'Baltic' Guarneri del Gesù for $9.44 million in 2023," they continued.

While the 'Baltic' is the most expensive Guarneri to be sold at auction, the most expensive Guarneri ever sold overall is the ‘Vieuxtemps,’ which went for $15.9 million in a private sale in 2013. Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers is now in possession of it on a lifetime loan.

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