The world’s most expensive violin: the 1741 ‘Vieuxtemps’ Guarneri ‘del Gesù’


Terry Borman discusses the ribs, purfling and scroll of this unique instrument in our June 2018 issue

Click here to purchase a poster of the 1741 ‘Vieuxtemps’ Guarneri ‘del Gesù

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Two months before his death in June 1881, Henri Vieuxtemps was considering selling his beloved 1741 Guarneri ‘del Gesù’ violin. He was no longer able to play, having suffered a stroke, and in a letter dated 9 April 1881 he told his friend, cellist Joseph Van der Heyden, that the instrument would ‘cost the buyer a lot, but it will be well worth it because this violin is a unique pearl’. In early January 2013 the world found out how prescient his comment was, as the newspapers were flooded with reports about the violin’s sale to an anonymous buyer for an undisclosed sum – stating only that it was in excess of $16 million (£9.8 million). That made it, at the time and still five years later, the most expensive violin in the world. The news also stated that it was to be a lifetime loan to the US violinist Anne Akiko Meyers.

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