Rare Stradivarius, The Penny, on auction in NY

Thu Mar 27, 2008 3:33pm EDT
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By Karen Brettell

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A 300-year-old Antonio Stradivari violin said to be sweet and feminine in its sound is expected to fetch more than $1 million when Christie's puts it up for auction next week.

Known as "The Penny," the violin dates from around 1700 and is named after its previous owner, the pianist and violinist Barbara Penny. It will be the lead item in Christie's spring Fine Musical Instruments auction on April 4.

The auction will also include a violin made by fellow Italian Giovanni Guadagnini in 1755, known as "The Ex-Wollgandt," which is expected to fetch between $300,000 and $400,000, Christie's said.

"The Penny" was praised as being among the being one of Stradivari's more feminine pieces.

"This one has an especially good balance between the brightness and the sweetness," said Jesus Reina, a violinist from the Manhattan School of Music who played the precious instrument at a press preview on Thursday.

Stradivari's instruments are praised for their sound, which projects clearly with rich tones, and are considered easy to play as they are highly responsive to a musician's touch.

He made around 1,100 instruments in his lifetime, most of them violins, and around 650 of his instruments survive today.

Christie's estimates "The Penny" will raise $1 million to $1.5 million, below the $3.54 million sale of "The Hammer" in 2006, which remains the most paid at auction for a Stradivarius.   Continued...

<p>Violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen plays "The Penny" Stradivarius violin for photographers at Christie's auction house in London March 7, 2008. REUTERS/Kieran Doherty</p>