A rare 286-year-old instrument, lauded as the “Leonardo da Vinci” of violins, will go under the gavel for the first time in decades at Aguttes in France this June. Although the estimate is only between US$4.2 million to US$4.7 million, it is expected by the auction house to be able to reach a final bid up to US$10.5 million.
Crafted in 1736 by the revered Italian luthier Giuseppe Guarneri, the violin has been in the hands of French virtuoso Régis Pasquier for more than two decades and accompanied him in the world’s most prestigious music venues, including Carnegie Hall in New York, Sydney’s Opera House and the Opera Garnier in Paris.
Pasquier performed with the violin around the world
Bartolomeo Giuseppe Guarnerius (1698-1744) | del Gesù
Measurement on the back: 351 mm
Estimate: €4,000,000 - 4,500,000
In 2010, a “Molitor” violin that once belonged to Napoleon was sold at a record-shattering price of US$3.6 million, and the record was broken by a “Lady Blunt” violin the following year, having sold for US$15.8 million, making it the most expensive musical instrument sold at auction. So why are some violins worth millions?
The reason lies in the violin-makers. In the violin-making world, two names prevail all others: Antonio Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri. Both masters lived during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, in a small town in northern Italy called Cremona, known as the cradle of violin-making. The luthiers garnered a reputation for constructing the finest stringed instruments in the world. To the present day, only a few hundred of their instruments are known to have survived – around 650 by Stradivari and 150 by Guarneri, making them exceptionally rare and coveted among both players and collectors.
The "Lady Blunt" violin
Centuries-old violins are well-known for their unique tonal qualities. As the old wood oxidizes over time, the instrument is refined by age and creates a unique vibration that flows between the resonance chambers. Compared with Stradivari, whose violins have a precise and light tone, Guarneri’s violins are renowned for their deep and dark richness, in which some players prefer.
Guarneri's works are characterized by the letters IHS (Iesus Hominem Salvator) and a Greek cross in the form of a trefoil, hence the name "del Gesù". In fact, it was Niccolò Paganini, the violin master, who made Guarneri famous. He considered "the Cannon" violin made by Guarneri to be his favorite and most precious instrument.
“There are many violins, but this one is like selling a Rembrandt, a Goya or even a Leonardo da Vinci painting," said Sophie Perrine of the Aguttes.
This rare piece was created at the pinnacle of Guarneri’s career. Intact in all its main parts, it has a beautiful one-piece flamed tiger maple back. The two-piece soundboard is made of regular fine pored spruce while the scroll and ribs are made of regular medium wave maple. The orange-brown varnish on a gold ground adds elegance and grace to the violin.
Pasquier purchased it more than two decades ago
The famous French violinist Régis Pasquier bought this Guarneri more than 20 years ago. He first encountered the violin at the Folles Journées Festival in Nantes. Pasquier recalls that when he gave it the first try, he was immediately won over by it. The moment the bow contacted the strings, he was amazed by the violin’s unparalleled penetrating sound. The resonance of the wooden body turned out to be different and projected the sound considerably further, thus offering the possibility to play it in large concert halls. He then decided to play it in concert the very next day without giving himself time to tame the instrument.
Now in his eighties, the artist chose to part with his violin in hopes of passing the nearly 300-year-old violin to the next generation of musicians. It is important for him to offer the young musicians of today the possibility of taking over, by discovering the instrument and by contributing to the diffusion of its exceptional sound potential that already crossed the centuries.
Auction House: Aguttes
Sale: Violin & Bows
Date: 3 June 2022
Exibition: 30 May to 2 June 2022