The instrument is part of the art collection of the failed Düsseldorf-based bank WestLB AG and will be auctioned off


German violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann will be forced to return the 1711 Stradivarius violin that has been his principal performing instrument for the past 13 years. The ‘Lady Inchiquin’, which dates from the master’s ‘golden period’, is part of the art collection of the failed Düsseldorf-based bank WestLB AG. The bank’s legal successor, Portigon Financial Services AG, has announced that all the artworks in the collection are now to be auctioned off. The total value of the collection, which comprises some 400 items, is estimated at €100–150m.

Zimmermann acquired the ‘Lady Inchiquin’ in 2001, after the retirement of its previous player, a member of the Berlin Philharmonic. ‘The violin feels like part of my body,’ he told The Strad in March 2012. ‘It has altered my musical ideas and how I play – I’ve had to buy new scores for most of my repertoire. In the past, when playing classics such as the Brahms or Beethoven concertos, I had to make lots of bow changes, but with the “Lady Inchiquin† I can use the original bowings. It also has a really rich sound that projects well, and I don’t need to use so much vibrato. It’s like great Italian cooking: if you have the best ingredients you don’t need to add anything.’

The announcement by Portigon has generated heated comments in the province of North Rhine-Westphalia in northeast Germany, where several museums and galleries display artworks from the WestLB collection. When questioned about the plans, Portigon chief executive Kai Wilhelm Franzmeyer told a German radio station that there was ‘no alternative’ to the sale and that all assets of WestLB ‘had to be recycled’. He added, ‘We’d like to help those who are interested in art in North Rhine-Westphalia and want to keep certain objects in the state.’ The collection also includes works by Picasso, Dalí,  and August Macke.

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