Stradivari Violin Valued at $10 Million Fails to Sell

A Stradivari violin found in the Manhattan home of reclusive American heiress Huguette Clark and valued at as much as $10 million went unsold at Christie’s.

The 1731 “Kreutzer” violin, made by renowned Italian artisan Antonio Stradivari, had a presale estimate of $7.5 million to $10 million. After a sealed-bid auction that began June 6, Christie’s said yesterday that the offers didn’t reach the “reserve price,” or the agreed-upon price between the sellers and the auction house.

“Christie’s and the estate are working together to explore next steps,” the company said in an e-mail.

The violin, named after its owner, French violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer, was part of a New York auction of more than 400 items belonging to the family of copper baron William Andrews Clark, including paintings, decorative arts, rare books and other musical instruments -- all painstakingly preserved. The auction, which lasted seven hours yesterday, tallied $8.5 million. The sale, combined with a May auction of other items in the Clark collection, brought in $70.2 million, exceeding Christie’s estimate of $50 million.

“An auction is very good for certain items, but there are many private clients who wouldn’t consider buying from auction, and not everybody wants that huge publicity,” Steven Smith, a director at London-based violin appraiser and dealer J & A Beare Ltd. said today in a phone interview.

Top Lot

The top lot sold yesterday was a painting by John Singer Sargent called “Girl Fishing,” which sold for $4.3 million, including commission. Its estimate ranged from $3 million to $5 million. An edition of Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” from 1855 sold for $305,000. It was estimated to fetch up to $150,000.

In yesterday’s sale, 352 lots were offered and 339 lots, or 96 percent, sold.

Clark began amassing his collection in 1878. More than 200 works of art were donated to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington when the self-made billionaire, a one-term U.S. senator, died in 1925.

Huguette Clark, the youngest of seven Clark children, continued to add to the collection throughout her life. The heiress died in May 2011 at age 104 after spending decades in New York City hospitals, where she lived -- even though she was healthy -- under pseudonyms and surrounded by her doll collection.

Monet Painting

In the May auction, a 1907 Monet painting of a pond studded with water lilies fetched $27 million. Huguette bought “Nympheas,” in 1930, when she was 23-years-old. It had been off the market until the sale.

She left no direct heirs to her estate, which was valued at more than $300 million at her death. Proceeds from the auction will go to her estate, Christie’s said. Ethel J. Griffin, New York County’s public administrator, is overseeing the estate, according to Christie’s.

Stradivari is recognized as the greatest violinmaker in history, and is believed to have produced close to 1,000 instruments, 650 of which survive, according to Christie’s. Another Stradivarius instrument, one of 10 surviving violas, will be offered this month at Sotheby’s in a sealed bid sale that may set an auction record for the most expensive instrument sold. Bids close June 25 for the 1719 “Macdonald” viola, which has a minimum bid of $45 million.

The auction record stands at $15.9 million from a June 2011 sale of a Stradivari violin dating from 1721. Auction house Tarisio sold the instrument in an online charity auction to support Japan’s earthquake and tsunami victims.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.