7500 - 20170328 - A rare 1684 violin by Antonio Stradivari to be offered at Sotheby's London -28.03.2017

Played by world leading musicians including acclaimed German violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann. Photo: Sotheby's.
On 28 March 2017, specialist musical instruments auctioneers Ingles & Hayday will offer a rare 1684 violin known as the Ex-Croall; McEwen by Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) for an estimate of £1.3 – 2 million/ HK$12-19 million. Stradivari’s name has become synonymous with perfection in the field of musical instruments. Considered by leading authority W.E. Hill & Sons as a fine example of Antonio Stradivari’s violins from the 1680s, the instrument represents a key stage in the development of the luthier’s distinctive style. The auction will take place at Sotheby’s New Bond Street galleries in London.

Stradivari’s output during his long career included only approximately 1,000 instruments, with only approximately 500 or so violins surviving today, and the majority of which are in private collections or museums. The violins from the 1680s are the first ones built on a larger, broader model and which are considered suitable for concert/solo use. The Ex-Croall; McEwen violin, in excellent condition and bearing an original label, has a back crafted from a single piece of maple with irregular flame and Stradivari’s trademark golden varnish.

Antonio Stradivari – An Unparalleled Genius
For some 200 years, Antonio Stradivari has been recognised as the greatest violin maker of all. Born in Cremona, northern Italy, around 1644, Stradivari made his first violin in 1666 and his developments in violin design, combined with excellent workmanship and superb materials, produced instruments that, both tonally and aesthetically, have never been surpassed.

Building on skills acquired during his apprenticeship, Stradivari began to alter established techniques and to challenge some aspects of traditional design. He improved the arching and fine-tuned the thickness of the wood; transformed the shape of the scroll, the varnish became more highly coloured and the tone more powerful. At the time the Ex-Croall; McEwen was produced, Stradivari’s reputation was spreading further afield and he was also establishing a name for himself in his native Cremona, later to become known as the centre of violin making.

Impeccable Provenance
The Ex-Croall; McEwen has a long documented history, passing through the hands of many titled owners. The first traceable owner of the violin was Mary Elizabeth Nina Townsend, or Countess Seafield, wife of Scottish nobleman James Olgivie-Grant, 11th Earl of Seafield.

In 1885/1886, the violin was sold to a Mr. William Croall, the son of a wealthy family of carriage makers; Croall was an active participant in Edinburgh’s musical scene and was known for his collection of fine stringed instruments which included several Stradivaris. In 1906, the violin was sold to his friend Frederick Smith, another collector of great violins. It then landed in the hands of distinguished violin dealers W.E. Hill & Sons who soon found a buyer, another Scotsman, named Mr. R.F. McEwen. By 1968, the violin found its way into the possession of the Countess of Scarborough, who put it up for auction at Sotheby’s on 19th December of that year. The winning bidder was Mr. F. Mitchell who purchased the violin for the sum of £9,500, and he later sold it to the Swiss luthier, Henry Werro of Bern. In 1995, the violin was acquired by the Westdeutsche Landesbank of Düsseldorf as part of their collection.

World-class Players
The Ex-Croall; McEwen has been played by some of the world’s leading musicians, most notably by acclaimed German violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann between 1985 and 1990. Other notable performers who have played the instrument include the young German talents Alexander Gilman and Suyoen Kim