‘Stop! There is a violin; it might be good for my cabinet’: From the Archive: April 1902
Dr T. Lamb Phipson recalls the tale of an impromptu violin auction on the streets of Rome, where a bidding war ended with a happy twist
In the late autumn of 1856 my excellent friend, Sgambatoldi, of Milan, was at Rome. His attention was called by a public crier, or banditore, to a pile of old clothes and dusty furniture spread out on the pavement for sale. It was the house of a poor artist, a painter who had lately died of consumption, leaving a young widow and three small children. The mother’s face was calm, and sadness gleamed from her large dark eyes. After a while, a few passers stopped, looked at the miserable articles exposed for sale, and walked on.
Then came by a stout man with keen, brilliant eyes. He stopped also. He had seen an old dilapidated violin lying on one of the chairs. There were no strings, nor bridge nor tail-piece, no bow nor case. By-and-bye my friend Sgambatoldi saw, approaching among the others, two French gentlemen who were at the same hotel as himself. They were Count Sabloneux and Monsieur Mortier, a deputy.