Rare cello set for record fails to sell at auction

Fri Oct 31, 2008 3:00pm EDT
 
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A rare cello made nearly 300 years ago by Italian master Antonio Stradivari that had been expected to set a record price failed to sell in an online auction that ended on Friday.

The Tarisio auctioneers Web site, www.tarisio.com, showed only one bid of $1.34 million had been placed which failed to meet the reserve price. The cello had been forecast to sell for between $1.47 million and $1.97 million.

"We are now working to put together an after-auction sale with interested parties," a spokesman for Tarisio said.

The cello is named the "Fleming" for its most recent owner, the late British cellist Amaryllis Fleming, who died in 1999 and was the sister of James Bond author Ian Fleming. It is being sold by her family and the proceeds are to go to the Royal College of Music in London where she studied and taught.

The current auction record for a cello is $1.03 million, paid for another Stradivari cello, the "Bonjour," at a Christie's auction in 1999. It is currently on loan to the Canada Council for the Arts, which values it at $4 million.

Stradivari made around 1,100 instruments, mostly violins, of which around 650 survive. The Fleming cello is one of only 60 surviving cellos.

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.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, editing by Alan Elsner)