A mystery collector: On the trail of a Russian nobleman


Gennady Filimonov investigates a mysterious collector known in many publications as ‘a Russian nobleman’

It’s not often that we get to solve several mysteries from just one clue, but this is what happened when I went on the hunt for a mysterious figure, identified in several places merely as ‘a Russian Nobleman’. This 19th-century gentleman, it appeared, owned both the 1698 ‘St Senoch, Willemotte’ and 1713 ‘Bass of Spain’ Stradivari cellos. But my research not only uncovered his name but his impressive collection of instruments, encompassing the likes of Guarneri ‘del Gesù’, Nicolò Amati, Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume and a Carlo Bergonzi tenor viola. It also linked the mystery man with the Russian royal family and one of Russia’s leading violin pedagogues of the time. And it turns out that many of the facts have been lying in plain sight for years; the pieces have simply never been put together till now…

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