Violin

This 308-year-old violin – heard on the ‘Wizard Of Oz’ soundtrack – could break a world record at auction

Topline

A 308-year-old violin that has been played to film scores from Hollywood’s Golden Age, including “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” by The Wizard of Oz – could fetch as much as $20 million this summer, making it the most expensive instrument ever sold at auction.

Highlights

The violin was handcrafted in Italy in 1714 by Antonio Stradivari, the famous craftsman who made violins for the ultra-rich, including King James II of England, King Charles III of Spain, and Ferdinando de’ Medici , Grand Prince of Tuscany.

After passing through several collections in the 19th century, the violin was acquired in 1924 by the Russian-American virtuoso Toscha Seidel, who hosted his own radio show on CBS, where he also worked as musical director.

Seidel kept the instrument for almost 40 years, playing the violin on the soundtracks of several Hollywood films, including, Intermezzo and melody for three.

Tarisio, a New York-based auction house specializing in stringed instruments and bows, expects the violin to fetch between $15 million and $20 million.

Ahead of the June auction, the violin, which is part of a collection in Japan, will be exhibited in London, Berlin, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo and New York.

Surprising fact

Seidel gave violin lessons to Albert Einstein in the 1930s. In return, Einstein reportedly presented Seidel with a pencil sketch illustrating the phenomenon of length contraction in the physicist’s theory of relativity. Einstein’s own violin sold at auction for $516,500 in 2018.

Key Context

It is believed that Stradivari made more than 1,100 instruments in his lifetime, but only around 650 remain today, some of which are kept in museum collections and loaned to musicians and orchestras. The ‘da Vinci, ex-Seidel’ Stradivari could break the record for most expensive instrument set in 2011 by another Stradivarius violin which fetched $15.8 million at a London auction, according to Guinness World Records.

Further reading

The sound of Tinseltown (American researcher)