Dubbed as one of the most expressive instruments, the violin creates a lot of stories from its tone alone. But there are more stories to tell from the violin than from its tone. The most expensive violins have rich stories hidden on their wood and strings. Many notable virtuosos have laid their hands on these violins, and they continue to pass on to new violinists regularly.
15 Most Expensive Violins
With their quality and rarity, no one could deny their great value. Let’s dive right into the most expensive violins in the world today and get to know more of the stories they keep.
1. Messiah Stradivarius ($20,000,000)
With a price of more or less 20 million dollars, the Messiah Stradivarius is the most expensive violin to ever exist. It was crafted in 1716 by Antonio Stradivari, a world-renowned maker of the best violins in the world. Stradivari created the Messiah during his golden period and stayed on his shop until his death in 1737. Violinists do not play with it as much, hence its relatively new condition. These are some of the reasons why this instrument is expensive.
Violinists such as Jean-Delphin Alard (who gave its name), Nathan Milstein, and Joseph Joachim were just some of the few who have tried playing the Messiah. At present, it is on display at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England.
2. Vieuxtemps Guarneri ($16,000,000)
The Vieuxtemps Guarneri is the most expensive violin crafted by violin maker Guiseppe Guarneri del Gesu in 1741. It got its name from Henri Vieuxtemps, a Belgian violinist who once owned it. Other violinists also had the chance to use this 16-million-dollar violin. These include Itzhak Perlman, Yehudi, Menuhin, and Pinchas Zukerman.
An anonymous buyer bought this violin at a whopping $16 million, making it the most expensive sold violin in the world. The owner donated the Vieuxtemps Guarneri to Anne Akiko Meyers, a famous violinist. This violin is on loan to Anne Akiko Meyers for her lifetime.
3. Lady Blunt ($15,900,000)
At a price of almost $16 million, the Lady Blunt is one of the most expensive violins in the world. It got its name from its first known owner, Lady Anne Blunt, the granddaughter of Lord Byron.
This violin is one of the two best-preserved Stradivarius violins to ever exist, the other one being the Messiah. This is because collectors tend to keep it most of the time rather than play it. Violinists were also not able to use it as much, so it was able to retain its original pristine condition. While the current owner is unknown, there were some notable players who have tried it. These include Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume and Richard Bennett.
4. Carrodus Guarneri ($10,000,000)
Crafted in 1743, the Carrodus Guarneri is one of Guarneri del Gesu’s finest instrument. This is evident in its excellent craftsmanship and construction. It got its name from the English violinist John Carrodus who once owned the violin. Other notable users of the Carrodus Guarneri include Ossy Renardy and Niccolo Paganini.
At present, Richard Tognetti, the artistic director and leader of the Australian Chamber Orchestra, own this violin. Tognetti describes the violin as deep, mysterious, and beautiful. It is worth noting that the materials used in Carrodus Guarneri and another Guarnerius violin called the Il Cannone are both from the same tree.
5. Ex-Kochanski Guarneri ($10,000,000)
The Ex-Kochanski Guarneri is an exquisite violin which Guarneri del Gesu made in 1741. It has a deep red varnish, and one of Guarneri’s finest instrument to exist. This violin is named after its early owner, Polish violinist Paul Kochanski. Later, it went to American violin Aaron Rosand where he used it for almost 40 years.
In 2009, Rosand sold the Ex-Kochanski Guarneri violin to an unidentified Russian collector. The Curtis Institute of Music, on the other hand, received $1.5 million from Rosand. At present, this violin is in a remarkable state of preservation.
6. Mary Portman ($10,000,000)
The Mary Portman violin is another creation of Guarneri del Gesu which he crafted in 1735. This violin is able to catch the mood around with its hypnotizing tune. It gets its name from the name of the Honorable Mary Isabel Portman, a British lady who built the Kranzbacj Castle. She was the daughter of Guarneri’s peer.
Aside from Mary Portman, other violinists including Fritz Kreisler and Adele Anthony also had the chance to play with it. At present, Francisco Fullana is the recipient of this violin on loan from the Stradivari Society.
7. Lord Wilton ($6,000,000)
The Lord Wilton violin is one of the most expensive violins crafted by Guarneri del Gesu. It was made in the city of Cremona in 1742 and was named after Seymore Egerton, the 4th Earl of Wilton. He was the 19th-century owner of this antique violin. Yehudi Menuhin, an American-born violinist, owned the instrument between 1978 and 1999.
After Menuhin’s death in 1999, collector David L. Fulton bought the violin for $6 million. Besides Lord Wilton and Yehudi Menuhin, other notable violinists also had the chance to play this violin. They include Zlatko Balokovic, Itzhak Perlman, and Lady Speyer.
8. La Pucelle Stradivari ($6,000,000)
The La Pucelle Stradivari, also known is The Virgin, is a 1709 Stradivari creation. Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, a Parisian luthier, gave it its name after discovering that it remained untouched since it left Stradivari’s workshop. While Stradivari crafted the violin, it was Vuillaume who created its tailpiece with a carving of Joan of Arc. He also made the violin’s elaborately carved pegs.
At present, collector David L. Fulton owns the La Pucelle Stradivari violin. He calls it as one of his finest items because it has no cracks, no worn-downs, and no retouchings.
9. Dolphin Stradivari ($6,000,000)
The Dolphin Stradivari is another Stradivarius violin made in 1714. George Hart, the 19th-century owner of this violin, named it as such because its shape, appearance, and color reminded him of a dolphin. Aside from George Hart, other violinists and collectors laid hands on this violin. They include John Adams, David Laurie, and Jascha Heifetz.
At present, the Nippon Music Foundation owns the violin and it is on loan to violinist Akiko Suwanai. In order to maintain the shimmer and glam of the violin, one has to be careful with its maintenance.
10. Ex-Szigeti Stradivari ($6,000,000)
The Ex-Szigeti Stradivari is also known as the name Ludwig. It is a violin which Stradivarius made in 1724 which bears the inscription, “Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis faciebat Anno 1724.” Known for its finesse and beauty, this violin has made its way across various violinists throughout the years. However, L-Bank Baden Württemberg bought the violin in 1989.
11. Il Cannone Guarnerius ($4,000,000)
The Il Cannone Guarnerius is another one of the most expensive violins which Guarneri del Gesu crafted. Because of its resonance and power, famed violinist Niccolo Paganini gave the violin its name. Other variants of the name include Canon from Paganini, Il Cannone del Gesu, and Cannone. Not only did Paganini name it, but he also considered it his favorite violin. It has unique features which set it apart from other violins. It has a markedly curved neck and a slightly shorter and thicker soundbox. Violinists such as Eugene Fodor, Shlomo Mintz, and Regina Carter had the chance to play this violin. At present, it is on exhibit at Palazzo Doria Tursi in Genoa, Italy.
12. Molitor Stradivarius ($3,600,000)
The Molitor Stradivarius has had a long line of players throughout its history. Another creation of Stradivarius, this violin has been around since 1697. Many thought that it was owned by Napoleon Bonaparte, but it was owned by Juliette Recamier, an art patron from Paris. The violin was then named after Count Gabriel Jean Joseph Molitor, a general of the Bonaparte Army. After his death in 1849, this violin remained with the Molitor family for nearly 70 years.
Violinists such as Albert Stern and Elmar Oliveria had the chance to use the violin. At present, violinist Ane Akiko Meyers owns this violin.
13. Hammer Stradivarius ($3,544,000)
The Hammer Stradivarius is named after Christian Hammer, a 19th-century Swedish collector who owned this violin. Stradivarius made this violin in 1707 at Cremona, in what people call his golden period. Musicians always wanted to try playing the violin because of its sound and beauty. Violinists who had the chance to play it include Bernard Sinsheimer and Kyozo Takezawa. In 2006, this violin made headlines when an anonymous bidder won it at Christie’s auction for $3.54 million.
14. Ex-Ries Stradivari ($3,500,000)
With a value of $3.5 million, the Ex-Ries Stradivari has got to be one of the most expensive violins to ever exist. Stradivarius made it in 1693 in his shop in Cremona. The Reinhold Würth Music Foundation had the rights to own this instrument, but it was not until 2008 when it was awarded to Hungarian violinist Joszef Lendvay.
15. Lady Tenant ($2,032,000)
Completing the list of the most expensive violins is the Lady Tennant violin. A Stradivarius violin crafted in 1699, the Lady Tennant features gracious curves which suggest Stradivarius’ turning back to the shaping of his teacher. In the 19th century, violinist Charles Philippe Lafont owned this violin. After his death, W.E. Hills and Sons acquired it. Eventually, Charles Clow Tennant bought it as a gift to his wife, Marguerite Agaranthe Mile Tennant. Her name is where the violin’s name is derived from. Other notable players of the Lady Tennant violin include Yang Lui, Xiang Gao, Ulf Hoelscher, and Yossif Ivanov.
What’s the difference between a $1,000 and a $10,000,000 violin?
The main difference between a $1,000 and a $10,000,000 violin is the tone. Many violins that sell for over $1,000,000 are at least 100 years old which means their wood has had time to age in a such a way that they sing. To learn more about the differences, watch this fun video by TwoSetViolin below: