Leandro Bisiach instrument used in the 2003 film Master and Commander was sold as part of an auction of the Australian actor’s belongings ostensibly to fund his divorce settlement

Russell crowe

Russell Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey plays the violin in Master and Commader


In an auction which took place in Sydney on Saturday, actor Russell Crowe took in AU$3.7m by selling an array of items from his personal collection. The Sotheby’s Australia event, titled ‘The Art of Divorce’, was said by Crowe to fund his divorce from actor and singer Danielle Spencer. 

One of the highest performing items was an 1890 violin by Leandro Bisiach bought by Crowe for his role as Captain Jack Aubrey in the 2003 film Master and Commander

The violin fetched AU$164,700 including buyer’s premium, approximately £89,500 or US$126,000. 

‘At the beginning of the Master & Commander shoot in Rosarito, Mexico, the props department handed me a dark and heavy German violin to use in the movie,’ Crowe wrote for the auction catalogue. 

‘It was my thought that the Captain (Jack Aubrey), as gruff as he may be, would play a finer instrument. Peter Weir, (the director), agreed with me, but the film’s budget couldn’t take the extra cost. So I had my friend, Richard Tognetti, (from the Australian Chamber Orchestra), and my violin teacher, Robert Greene, try to track down something more suitable. 

‘They found me this beautiful Leandro Bisiach (made in Milan in 1890). Though it was a later piece than the time period of the film, the fact that it was in the style of Guarneri meant that it was a shape and style that Aubrey would have purchased. This is a serious concert level violin with a beautiful tone.’ 

Crowe suggested the buyer ‘might want to lend it to a young musician so it carries on and starts to play in the concert halls around the world’ recommending Australian Youth Orchestra violinist Bridget O’Donnell as a suitable recipient. 

O’Donnell performed on the instrument at the auction as well as in a video released a month prior. 

The catalogue listing for the violin noted: 


The auction catalogue

‘The back of two pieces of maple of irregular horizontal figure, the ribs of similar wood, the scroll of narrower figure, the front of two pieces of spruce of fine grain in the centre, broadening towards the flanks, the varnish of an orange-brown colour, labelled “Leandro Bisiach della Scuola Cremonese fece in Milano 1890, Piazza del Duomo”, signed by the maker on the label, and further labelled “Copia Andrea Guarneri”, together with a Baroque style bow of modern manufacture.’

Other items which sold at the auction included a breastplate work in Gladiator and a dinosaur skull bought from Leonardo DiCaprio which fetched AUD $65,000.

Read: Double Acts: actor Russell Crowe and violinist Richard Tognetti
Gladiator star Crowe found learning the violin over a three-month period for the film Master and Commander tiring until Tognetti taught him how to relax

Watch: Russell Crowe plays the violin in Master and Commander
Russell Crowe plays the violin in the film Master and Commander, having been taught the instrument in three months by Australian Chamber Orchestra leader Richard Tognetti.