Stradivarius Sells for $15.9 Million to Help Japan Quake Relief

Stradivari Violin
A 1721 violin by Antonio Stradivari. Known as the "Lady Blunt" Stradivarius, after the grand-daughter of Lord Byron who once owned the instrument, it was sold on June 20 on behalf of the Nippon Foundation by the specialist auction house Tarisio. Source: Tarisio via Bloomberg

A violin made in 1721 by Antonio Stradivari sold online for 9.8 million pounds ($15.9 million) to help victims of Japan’s March 11 earthquake, more than four times the previous auction record.

The “Lady Blunt” Stradivarius, named after the grand-daughter of Lord Byron who once owned the instrument, was sold today on behalf of the Nippon Foundation by auction house Tarisio, which specializes in musical instruments. The highest auction price for a violin was previously $3.6 million, paid by U.S. violinist Anne Akiko Meyers for the 1697 “Molitor” Stradivarius at Tarisio in New York last year.

“Normally in auction you don’t get world record prices because most people like to sell through private dealers, but this one’s an exception,” said Steven Smith, a director at 119-year-old London violin dealer J & A Beare Ltd., before the sale ended. “It is a great one. It’s fairly immaculate.”

There were two bidders and the winner wishes to remain anonymous. The price includes fees, the auction house said in a statement from its London office.

Lady Blunt was one of 19 Stradivarius instruments owned by the Nippon Music Foundation. The proceeds of the sale will be given to the organization’s parent, the Nippon Foundation, for its Northeastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund.

Japan’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami left almost 23,000 dead or missing and destroyed more than 200,000 homes, according to a National Police Agency statement on June 20. The disaster caused as much as 25 trillion yen ($312 billion) in damage, the government estimated in March.

Today’s sale was the second time the Lady Blunt has set a world record at auction. On the first occasion, at Sotheby’s in 1971, the instrument was bought by Singaporean shipping and real estate tycoon Robin Loh for 84,000 pounds.

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