In 1920, Huguette Clark was a teenager ensconced in Paris when she received a telegram from her parents saying her mother had just purchased for her “the most fabulous violin in the world,” NBC News notes.
It’s unclear how Clark avidly played the instrument, but the heiress to her family’s copper fortune — courtesy of her father, mining tycoon and politician William A. Clark and his her mother Anna — held on to it.
While their daughter ended up owning huge Manhattan apartments and homes over the proceeding years with her $300 million inheritance, the reclusive and eccentric Clark opted to spend her final decades in a New York hospital, dying in 2011 at the age of 104, Reuters said.
But after Clark’s passing, that same violin her mother raved about nearly a century before was found in one of the heiress’ closets where it had been sitting for 25 years.
Clark’s mother was right: Turns out the instrument is a Stradivarius, and one of rarest and most expensive ever created. It’s among the 600 surviving today created by Antonio Stradivari, considered the greatest violin maker ever, NBC News noted.
Which is quite the selling point as the violin is up for auction at the moment, along with many other Clark family collectibles.
“Our pre-sale estimate on this is $7.5 million to $10 million,” Kerry Keane, head musical instrument specialist at Christie’s, told NBC News of Clark’s violin. The sealed-bid auction ends June 12.
The 1731 instrument is known as the Kreutzer Stradivariwas, after its first-known owner Rodolphe Kreutzer who “owned and played his namesake Stradivari from about 1795 until his death in 1831,” Christie’s said in a statement, according to Reuters.
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If you learned to play the violin, you can likely thank Kreutzer, a French violinist and teacher, who penned the 42 Études, a commonly used foundation for teaching students to play the instrument.
“What’s important about his later works is that they’re the ones that are consistently the most powerful for players tonally,” Keane told NBC News of Clark’s violin. “It has this warm gutsy sound that they produce, and with great color and complexity for the musician.”
To authenticate the instrument, Christie’s analyzed the wood ring growths (i.e., dendrochronology). “It matches four Stradivaris from 1730 to 1734 made from the same tree,” Keane added to NBC News. “That is a great find. It’s like a fingerprint.”
The highest price paid for a Stradivarius violin is $16 million, Reuters noted. But a rare viola made by Stradivari in 1719 is scheduled for a sealed bid auction at Sotheby’s this month. It’s value? $45 million.