10 Rarest and Most Valuable Violins in the World

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Violins date back to 16th century Italy and since then, they have been some of the most well-loved instruments in the world. All of the world’s rarest and most valuable violins originated from Cremona, Italy in the 18th century and were created by either Antonio Stradivari or Guiseppe Guarneri. Most of these rare violins are still in playable condition, while a few are held in museums and have not been played in recent history. Each of these rare violins is worth millions of dollars, with the most valuable being worth tens of millions.

  1. Il Cannone Guarnerius
  2. Current Value: $4 Million
    Year Created: 1743
    Maker: Guiseppe Guarneri
    Country of Origin: Cremona, Italy
    Notable Players and Owners: Niccolò Paganini
    Il Cannone Guarnerius
    photo source: Wikimedia Commons

     

    Il Cannone Guarnerius, aka “The Cannon,” was famously owned by Niccolò Paganini. Paganini’s Il Cannone ended up with him on accident. He had lost a valuable Antonio Amati violin due to his gambling and Paganini was given a neglected Guarneri to play as a gift from an amateur violinist and businessman. Paganini dubbed this new violin Il Cannone and played it for the rest of his life.

    Since 1851, Il Cannone Guarnerius has resided in Genova inside Palazzo Doria Tursi, along with other Paganini memorabilia. The museum keeps Il Cannone in playing condition and it is loaned out to violinists for special occasions. While Il Cannone is priceless because of its provenance, it is currently insured for about $4 million 

    Did you know?

    When Paganini needed to repair Il Cannone Guarnerius, he sent it off to the workshop of Jean Baptiste Vuillaume in Paris, the greatest luthier of that time period. Vuillaume even made a near exact replica of Il Cannone, which Paganini couldn’t tell apart from the original until he played the violin.


  3. La Pucelle
  4. Current Value: $6 Million
    Year Created: 1709
    Maker: Antonio Stradivari
    Country of Origin: Cremona, Italy
    Notable Players and Owners: Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume; Huguette Clark; David L. Fulton
    La Pucelle
    photo source: classicfm.com

    La Pucelle, aka the “Virgin” or the “Maiden,” is one of the finest examples of Antonio Stradivari’s “Golden Period.” This incredibly rare and antique violin dates all the way back to 1709.

    One of La Pucelle’s earliest owners, Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, is responsible for giving the violin its name. Vuillaume carved a design onto the violin’s tailpiece. The image is of a woman in armor, Joan of Arc, the virgin warrior known as “La Pucelle d’Orléans.” Additionally, Vuillaume is responsible for carving the La Pucelle’s elaborate pegs.

    Did you know?

    La Pucelle is currently owned by David L. Fulton, who bought it from heiress Huguette Clark for $6 million. The contract also included a clause that made Fulton promise to not reveal Clark’s identity as La Pucelle’s seller for 10 years.


  5. Dolphin Stradivarius
  6. Current Value: $6 Million
    Year Created: 1714
    Maker: Antonio Stradivari
    Country of Origin: Cremona, Italy
    Notable Players and Owners: George Hart; John Adams; David Laurie; Nippon Music Foundation
    Dolphin Stradivarius
    photo source: Nippon Music Foundation

    The Dolphin Stradivarius or Delfino is the second oldest violin on this list and it has a current estimated value of $6 million. This antique violin is currently owned by the Nippon Music Foundation, who have loaned it to Japanese violinist Akiko Suwanai. Nippon Music Foundation acquired the Dolphin Stradivarius in 2000. Before this, the violin was owned by Cho-Ming Sin for 30 years. Other notable owners of the Dolphin Stradivarius include Richard Bennett and W.E. Hill.

    Did you know?

    The Dolphin Stradivarius got its name from George Hart, who said the shape of the back of the violin and its shimmering surface reminded him of a violin.


  7. Lord Wilton Guarneri
  8. Current Value: $6 Million – $10 Million
    Year Created: 1742
    Maker: Guiseppe Guarneri
    Country of Origin: Cremona, Italy
    Notable Players and Owners: Lord Wilton; Yehudi Menuhin; Lady Speyer
    Lord Wilton Guarneri
    photo source: Strings Magazine

    The Lord Wilton Guarneri was famously owned by famed violinist Yehudi Menuhin from 1978 until his death in 1999. Following Menuhin’s death, the Lord Wilton Guarneri was sold to  US collector David Fulton for $6 million, a record sale at the time. In 2016, Fulton released a documentary featuring the Lord Wilton Guarneri played by James Ehnes performing works by Manuel de Falla. According to one source, the Lord Wilton Guarneri currently belongs to an anonymous owner. Current estimates suggest that the Lord Wilton Guarneri is worth at least $10 million.

    Did you know?

    The Lord Wilton Guarneri was also owned by Croatian violinist, Zlatko Balokovic from 1952 to 1961.


  9. Mary Portman Guarneri
  10. Current Value: $10 Million
    Year Created: 1735
    Maker: Guiseppe Guarneri
    Country of Origin: Cremona, Italy
    Notable Players and Owners: Mary Portman; Fritz Kreisler; Yi-Jia Susanne Hou
    Mary Portman Guarneri
    photo source: Violin Music School

    The Mary Portman Guarneri is currently owned by Clement and Karen Arrison, affluent philanthropists from New York, who choose young violinists every few years to play the rare violins in their priceless collection. Back in 2016, the Arrisions chose VC Young Artist Francisco Fullana, a graduate of the Julliard School, to play the Mary Portman Guarneri for the foreseeable future.

    The rare Guarneri violin is named for Mary Portman, a wealthy British amateur violinist, who owned the violin during the World War I era. Since owning the Mary Portman Guarneri, the Arrisons have loaned the violin to Adele Anthony and Yi-Jia Susanne Hou.

    Did you know?

    Although the violin is named for Mary Portman, the violin’s most prominent owner was Fritz Kreisler, one of the greatest violinists in history.


  11. Ex-Kochanski Guarneri
  12. Current Value: $10 Million
    Year Created: 1741
    Maker: Guiseppe Guarneri
    Country of Origin: Cremona, Italy
    Notable Players and Owners: Paul Kochanski; Aaron Rosand
    Ex-Kochanski Guarneri
    photo source: tarisio.com

    The Ex-Kochanski Guarneri had been owned and played by Aaron Rosand for over 50 years before he decided to sell the violin in 2009. Rosand sold the Ex-Kochanski to a Russian billionair for $10 million, in what Rosad said was a bittersweet sale. On a happier note, Rosand reported that the buyer would continue to allow other musicians to play the Ex-Kochanski. Additionally, Rosand immediately donated $1.5 million from the sale to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. At the time of the sale, this was the highest price ever paid for a violin.

    Did you know?

    Aaron Rosand had purchased the Ex-Kochanski Guarneri from Paul Kochanski’s widow in 1957.


  13. Carrodus Guarneri
  14. Current Value: $10 Million
    Year Created: 1743
    Maker: Guiseppe Guarneri
    Country of Origin: Cremona, Italy
    Notable Players and Owners: John Tiplady Carrodus; W.E. Hill
    Carrodus Guarneri
    photo source: The Strad

    The Carrodus Guarneri was made in 1743 during Guiseppe Guarneri’s most creative era, which was unfortunately one year before his death. The violin is named for John Tiplady Carrodus, who owned the violin in the late 19th century. The Carrodus has had numerous owners, and according to few sources, it may have even been played by Paganini for some time.

    In 2007, the Carrodus Guarneri was purchased by a wealthy patron for Australian violinist Richard Tognetti, artistic director of the Australian Chamber Orchestra, to use. The Carrodus is currently valued at $10 million.

    Did you know?

    Somehow, the Carrodus Guarneri survived unscathed, the 1955 car crash that killed its then owner Ossy Renardy.


  15. Lady Blunt
  16. Current Value: $15.9 Million
    Year Created: 1721
    Maker: Antonio Stradivari
    Country of Origin: Cremona, Italy
    Notable Players and Owners: Lady Anne Blunt; Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume; Richard Bennett
    Lady Blunt
    photo source: Wikimedia Commons

    Before its record was broken in 2012 by the Vieuxtemps Guarneri, the Lady Blunt Stradivarius was the most expensive violin ever sold. At the time, the Lady Blunt was owned by the Nippon Music Foundation. However, following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, the Nippon Music Foundation decided to put the Lady Blunt up for sale to raise money for relief efforts. The anonymous winner of the online auction snagged the Lady Blunt for a cool $15.9 million.

    The Lady Blunt is one of two Stradivarius that are in excellent condition. Like The Messiah, the Lady Blunt has mostly been un-played. The last time the Lady Blunt was played was in 1971 by Yehudi Menuhin.

    Did you know?

    The Lady Blunt Stradivarius is named for its second owner, Lady Anne Blunt, the daughter of Ada Lovelace and granddaughter of Lord Byron.


  17. Vieuxtemps Guarneri
  18. Current Value: $16 Million
    Year Created: c.1741
    Maker: Guiseppe Guarneri
    Country of Origin: Cremona, Italy
    Notable Players and Owners: Henri Vieuxtemps
    Vieuxtemps Guarneri
    photo source: The Strad

     

    Back in 2010, the Vieuxtemps Guarneri, an 18th century violin from luthier Guiseppe Guarneri, was put up for sale with an estimated price tag of $18 million. The Vieuxtemps Guarneri was finally sold in 2012, by J&A Beares Ltd in collaboration with Paolo Alberghini and Julie Reed Yeboah, to a mysterious buyer for an undisclosed sum. It was later revealed that the buyer paid more than $16 million for the Vieuxtemps Guarneri. Additionally, the buyer gave American violinist Anne Akiko Meyers exclusive rights to play the Vieuxtemps Guarneri for the rest of her life.

    Did you know?

    The Vieuxtemps Guarneri is named for its most famous owner, 19th-century Belgian virtuoso and composer Henri Vieuxtemps, who loved the violin so much he wanted to be buried with it.


  19. The Messiah
  20. Current Value: $20 Million
    Year Created: 1716
    Maker: Antonio Stradivari
    Country of Origin: Cremona, Italy
    Notable Players and Owners: Count Cozio di Salabue; W.E. Hill
    The Messiah
    photo source: Wikimedia Commons

    Appropriately dubbed “The Messiah,” this Stradivarius original, with an estimated value of $20 million, is currently the rarest and most valuable violin in the world. It is believed to be the last remaining Stradivarius in brand new condition, meaning The Messiah has never been played. According to The Messiah’s provenance, its pristine condition is due to the fact that it has always been a collector’s piece.

    The Messiah had remained in Stradivari’s workshop until his death in 1737. The violin was then sold to Count Cozio di Salabue in 1775, and for a time, the violin bore the name Salabue. After passing through a few more owners, The Messiah was bequeathed to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford by the family of W.E. Hill in the second half of the 20th century.

    Did you know?

    The top of The Messiah is made from wood from the same tree as a P.G. Rogeri violin of 1710.

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