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Wednesday, 4 September, 2002, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Stradivarius could fetch 850,000
A Stradivarius violin
Stradivarius violins are extremely rare
A rare Stradivarius violin thought never to have been played in a public concert could fetch 850,000 when it is auctioned at Christie's in London.

There are only 500 remaining examples of the work of violin-making genius Antonio Stradivari.

The example to be sold at Christie's on 13 November has never been owned by a professional musician and is in very good condition.


Instruments from this particular period are quite rare

Jennifer Laredo
Christie's
Despite advances in modern technology, many concert violinists feel instruments created by 17th Century Italian masters like Stradivari have the better sound.

Violinist Priya Mitchell put the violin through its paces in a preview at Christie's.

"It is a fine example of his work and is in very good condition," said Christie's musical instrument specialist Jennifer Laredo.

Born in 1644, Stradivari made the instruments at his workshop in Cremona near Milan and they are coveted by collectors as well as musicians.

Scientists have speculated that some of the techniques lost over time - perhaps including soaking the wood in brine and other chemical treatments - explain the extraordinary resonance of 17th and 18th Century violins and violas.

Stradivari died in 1737, but his influence on instrument-making was profound with future generations relying heavily on his new template for the violin.

His work typically passed into the hands of Europe's ruling classes as well as the musicians they patronised.

The Italian master created instruments for both James II of England and Italy's feared Medici aristocratic clan.

Nigel Kennedy
Nigel Kennedy has used a Stradivarius
The current lot dates from 1726, just one year older than the record-breaking Kreutzer Stradivarius which sold for 947,500.

But Ms Laredo said that the new lot did not have a colourful biography, had never been owned by a professional violinist and to her knowledge had never been played at a public concert.

Instead the work had passed between collectors - including 19th Century French maker Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume - over the centuries, retaining its good condition.

It clearly bears the label "Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis, Faciebat Anno 1726" and Laredo added: "Instruments from this particular period are quite rare."

For the past 20 years it has been in the hands of a private collector in the southern hemisphere who wishes to remain anonymous.

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