A list of the world’s most expensive violins in 2021.
How much would you pay for a violin? Whether you’re an admirer of music or a long-term violinist, you’ve probably heard of certain violins having an eye-watering price tag. Talented violin makers, like Guarneri del Gesù and Antonio Stradivari, are responsible for creating some of the most expensive and high-quality violins in the world. You may have heard of the legendary “Strad” violin, or some of the record-setting Christie’s auction lots.
The most expensive violin in the world sold for $16 million, although the Messiah Stradivari is valued at $20 million. The price for these violins comes not only from their violin maker and quality, but the famous composers and violinists who previously owned the instrument. Read on to find out more about the most expensive violins in the world and where they are now.
Most Expensive Violins in the World
We’re going to look in-depth at the record-setting violins built by Antonio Stradivari of Cremona and the Italian luthier Guarneri del Gesù.
These are the five most expensive violins in the world, ordered from most to least expensive.
1. The Messiah by Antonio Stradivari
The Messiah violin by Antonio Stradivari is estimated to have a value of $20 million what makes it the most expensive violin in the world. It is a violin made in 1716 and is labeled “as new” condition. Violinists such as Nathan Milstein and Joseph Joachim have played the Messiah Stradivarius. It is currently part of an exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
2. The Vieuxtemps by Guarneri del Gesù
The Vieuxtemps Guarneri violin got its name because it was owned by the famous composer and violinist Henri Vieuxtemps, during the 19th century. It sold for $16 million to an anonymous bidder and is now lent to Anne Akiko Meyers for the rest of her life. It is the current world record holder for the most expensive violin.
3. The Lady Blunt by Antonio Stradivari
The Lady Blunt got its name from Lady Anne Blunt, the daughter of its first owner, Lord Byron. The violin’s quality is in virtually perfect condition and it reached the price of $15.9 million. The Lady Blunt was played by Yehudi Menuhin, the 20th-century violinist, and Itzhak Perlman.
4. Carrodus Guarneri by Guarneri del Gesù
The Carrodus Guarneri is a Guarneri del Gesù violin and was made in 1743, a year before his death. It was briefly owned by John Carrouds, who the violin is named after. It’s valued to be worth at least $10 million.
5. Ex-Kochanski by Guarneri del Gesù
The Ex-Kochanski Guarneri is another Del Gesu piece. It sold at auction in 2009 for $10 million. The violin is named after its long-time owner, Paul Kochanski, a Polish violinist.
It’s no surprise that most of the world’s most expensive violins are now kept in a museum to keep them best preserved for the future. A few have been given on loan to talented violinists to use during special performances.
Guarneri del Gesù
Guarneri del Gesù made almost 250 violins during his career. Out of the five most expensive violins, del Gesu was responsible for making three of them. The Vieuxtemps, Carrodus, and Ex-Kochanski.
The Vieuxtemps Guarneri
This legendary violin was built in 1741 and sold at auction to an anonymous bidder in 2012. It was one of the last violins built by Guarneri del Gesù. The instrument has been used by Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zekerman. It previously belonged to Ian Stoutzker and Sir Isaac Wolfson. This violin is considered to be in excellent condition thanks to careful maintenance.
You can listen to and appreciate the perfect sound of this violin by watching this video:
The Carrodus Guarneri
The Carrodus Guarneri was made in 1741 in Cremona. It is currently on loan to the violinist Richard Tognetti from the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Niccolo Paganini, an Italian violinist and the most celebrated virtuoso of his time, played this instrument. While the violin takes its name from its previous owner, English Violinist John Carrodus, its connection to Paganini is one reason behind its value.
Immerse into the sound of this beautiful instrument by watching this video:
The Ex-Kochanski Violin
The Ex-Kochanski was built in 1741 and is largely considered to be one of the finest of Guarneri’s instruments. It was owned by Aaron Rosand, a violinist who used the instrument for over 50 years. When he put the violin for sale in 2009, he said that it felt like he “left part of my body behind”. Rosand sold the Ex-Kochanski Guarneri to an unknown Russian billionaire.
Antonio Stradivarius Violins
Antonio Stradivari is considered to be one of the world’s finest violin makers. He was born in Cremona in 1644 in Italy.
A Stradivarius violin is a priceless piece of art, often fetching several million dollars at auction. Museums are keen to place these instruments behind glass to keep them protected, giving everyone the opportunity to see the work of this legendary violin maker.
His violins are marked with a Latin label that states “Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis Faciebat Anno” and the date the violin was made.
The Messiah Stradivarius
Stradivarius’ Messiah violin is believed to be the most valuable in the world. What makes it so valuable is that it represents the golden period of Stradivari’s work and is in like-new condition. It was played by famous violinists such as Joseph Joachim and Nathan Milstein.
The Messiah Stradivarius is now on display at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England. It’s worth adding a trip there to any travel itinerary. The Messiah was bequeathed to the museum by W.E. Hill as a “yardstick” for future violin makers to use as a reference and to learn from.
You can see this precious violin here:
The Lady Blunt
One of the most famous instruments made by Stradivarius was the Lady Blunt. It was used by Yehudi Menuhin, who is considered one of the greatest violinists of the 20th century. The Italian luthier also made the Soil, which Yehudi Menuhin also played.
The Lady Blunt, named after the granddaughter of Lord Byron, was previously in the ownership of the Nippon Music Foundation in Japan. Following the 2012 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the Nippon Music Foundation sold the violin at auction to an unknown bidder. The violin raised $15.9 million, which was used to help victims of the earthquake and tsunami.
As the Vieuxtemps was sold in a private transaction, the Lady Blunt is still a record-setter. The final price exceeded by over four times the previous record set by the Molitor Stradivarius, which sold for $3.6 million in 2010. It’s considered one of the two best-preserved violins by Stradivarius, along with the Messiah. When it was put for sale, the Lady Blunt was described as the “best-preserved Stradivarius to be offered for sale” in the last century.
Here you can see a short recording of Yehudi Menuhin playing this violin before it is auctioned at Sotheby’s 1971:
Other Stradivarius Violins
While they don’t make the top five list, there are other famous violins by the famous Stradivari. During his career, Stradivari made over 1,100 instruments, the majority of which were violins. Around 650 instruments have survived to today.
The Molitor Stradivari Violin
The Molitor Stradivari was owned by Napoléon Bonaparte, leader of the French Republic and later the French Emperor. The name ‘Molitor‘ came from the later owner Count Gabriel Jean Joseph, a general in Bonaparte’s army. The violin remained in the family of Gabriel Jean Joseph Molitor until World War One.
The Molitor violin represents a golden period of Stradivari’s work, therefore it reached the price of $3.6 million in 2010, which was the highest price for a violin at that time. The buyer and current owner is Anne Akiko Meyers.
You can hear it being played in the following video:
The Hammer Stradivarius Violin
The Hammer Stradivarius takes its name from Christian Hammer, the 19th-century Swedish collector and first recorded owner of the violin. The violin arrived in the United States in 1911, under the ownership of Bernard Sinsheimer. It was acquired by a Japanese oil company in 1992 during an estate sale. They loaned the antique violin out to Kyoko Takezawa, who used it for twenty years before it was put up for auction.
The Hammer by Stradivari was sold at Christie’s auction house in 2006 to an unknown bidder. The violin fetched $3.54 million, surpassing its estimated price of $1.5 million.
The Lady Tennant Violin
The Lady Tennant predates the golden era of Antonio Stradivari as it was built in 1699. It was owned by Charles Philippe Lafont, a contemporary of Paganini. Following Lafont’s death, it was acquired by W.E Hill, who sold it to Sir Charles Clow Tennant. He gifted the violin to his wife, for whom it is named after.
This Stradivari violin was sold at Christie’s in 2005 for over $2 million. Since then, it has been on loan to the Chinese violinist Yang Liu and then the Belgian violinist Yossif Ivanov.
Owners of the Most Expensive Violins
It is impossible to list all precious instruments and their owners, first of all, because this article would be way too long. Secondly, it’s not always possible to get reliable information on who is the owner and who currently plays a particular violin, so let’s just have a look at some examples.
Anne Akiko Meyers
She is the lucky violinist who was donated the Vieuxtemps Guarneri violin to use for the rest of her life. Moreover, she bought the earlier mentioned Molitor Strad. But wait, that’s not all! She also owns and plays the 1730 Royal Spanish Stradivarius, owned in the past by the king of Spain.
Who is she, you may ask. In 2014, she was Billboard’s top-selling classical instrumentalist. A child prodigy, Meyers studied at Juilliard and has played at some of the most famous venues.
Anne talks about the precious violin lent to her in this short video:
Remarkable violinist, but also conductor and music teacher of Israel-American roots is the owner of the Soil Strad which used to belong to Yehudi Menuhin. In the past, he owned a Stradivarius violin that has the following nicknames: Sinsheimer, General Kyd, Perlman.
Currently, he also owns: the Guarneri del Gesù 1743 Sauret and the Carlo Bergonzi 1740 ex-Kreisler.
This modern violinist used to own the Tom Taylor Stradivarius. That’s exactly the violin, which starred in the movie “The Red Violin”, but don’t get confused – the movie is actually about the Red Mendelssohn Strad violin.
Now he owns and plays on the Gibson ex Huberman, a Stradivarius made in 1713.
Classical violinist and a rock star in one person, Garrett has a collection of violins, but only one Strad: Ex Adolf Busch. In his collection is a Guarneri ‘del Gesù from 1728, 1735 Santo Serafin from Venice, Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, then another French violin from the Vuillaume school, and an electric violin.
Nippon Music Foundation
One of the foundations that collects the best instruments in the world, and then loans them to talented violinists, is the Japanese Nippon Music Foundation. The Foundation owns 18 Strads, only 4 of them not being violins, and 2 del Gesu violins – 1736 Muntz and 1740 Ysaÿe.
The fact is that not only violinists, orchestras, philharmonics, or foundations connected with classical music own the best violins. A little research shows that individual collectors also buy them and keep them as an investment, only sometimes lending the instrument to renowned violinists. Then there are institutions such as:
- banks e.g. Oesterreichische Nationalbank,
- other organizations like United States Library of Congress,
- or countries – e. g. Antonio Stradivari 1703 is owned by Bundesrepublik Deutschland and exhibited at Musikinstrumentenmuseum, Berlin.
If you would like to see precious instruments by Stradivari, del Gesu, sometimes Amati and other luthiers, make sure to visit museums like Museo del Violino in Cremona, Italy; Musée de la Musique in Paris, France; Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, USA; Royal Academy of Music, London and the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, both England.