Written by: Amy Tobin
I am a little late in posting my reaction to the recent sale of the 'Lady Blunt' Stradivarius. Perhaps I just needed a little time to process the fact that this gorgeous, near perfect condition, absolutely incomparable violin sold at auction for nearly $16M dollars! Here, let me put the zeros after that so you can get the full effect: $16,000,000
The 'Lady Blunt' Stradivarius is the new record holder.
The almost $16M that it sold for is nearly 4 times the amount of the previous record, set by the sale of the 'Molitor' Stradivarius, for $3.6M, to Anne Akiko Meyers in 2010.
The other astonishing fact about the sale of this instrument, put up at auction by the Nippon Music Foundation,
is that all (yes, 100%!) of the proceeds from the auction are going to the Northeastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund. Did this have an effect on how high the 'Lady Blunt' Stradivarius sold for? It's hard to say. The instrument itself is one of the most perfectly preserved Stradivarius violins in existence. It is so rare for an instrument to survive with nearly all of its original parts and no damage or cracks to speak of, that it is really a perfect snapshot of a master's moment in time.
All of this begs the question, however, of the value of different kinds of art. Stradivarius was arguably the greatest violin maker in history. He is the master who provided the model for nearly all of today's violins, and the standard of greatness to which luthiers after him aspired to. His instruments are legendary, both in form and function. Many of them are still being played, and many others are on display in museums around the world, but there is one consistency with all of them. They are the only Stradivarius violins in existence......there aren't going to be any more.
Yes, $16M is a heck of a lot of money. But why does the instrument of the most legendary violin maker set a record at that price while an original Picasso, for instance, sells for $95M? And that's not even the highest price paid for a piece of artwork. The record amount for a painting was set in 2006 with Jackson Pollock's "No. 5, 1948", which sold for $140M.
Certainly it doesn't have anything to do with rarity or age. What about Michelangelo's statue of David? Or the Pieta? Certainly those are older than any of the Stradivarius violins, but only by two hundred years or so. I'm willing to bet that those two items are insured for far more than $16M! So, why the disparity?
I am certainly not trying to say anything about any one kind of art, or any particular artist, being more or less valuable than another. No, I think art in all of its forms is incredibly valuable and irreplaceable. But it does make you wonder just how these prices and values get assigned to these great works. Especially when the inherent value in a painting or sculpture lies with its history and ability to bring joy to someone by looking at it, and a great instrument, by one of the greatest makers, can continue to bring joy by its continued use.
By now, you can tell we're enamored with the 'Lady Blunt' Stradivarius. We have two wonderful models of this violin available- the A. Fein/R.Riva 'Lady Blunt' Stradivarius model violin. and our Fein/Riva 'Lady Blunt' Stradivarius model.