U.S. authorities return rare Stradivarius violin stolen in 1980

Thu Aug 6, 2015 4:39pm EDT
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By Nate Raymond and Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - On a late June afternoon in a Manhattan hotel, a woman handed one of the world's rarest musical instruments to Phillip Injeian, a violin maker and appraiser.

The woman was simply hoping to learn more about the violin, which she had received years before as a gift from her late former husband, Philip Johnson. But Injeian immediately recognized it for what it was: a valuable Stradivarius violin that had been stolen 35 years earlier.

"It was a 'Eureka' moment," Injeian said at a press conference on Thursday.

U.S. authorities formally returned the violin to the family of its rightful owner, the famed Polish violinist Roman Totenberg, who died in 2012 at the age of 101.

The violin, known as the Ames Stradivarius, was made by renowned Italian violin maker Antonio Stradivari in 1734.

Approximately 550 Stradivarius instruments, including violins, violas and cellos, remain in existence. One violin sold for a record $15.9 million at auction in 2011.

The Ames violin was stolen in 1980 after Totenberg delivered a performance in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Its recovery was first reported earlier on Thursday on National Public Radio by Nina Totenberg, its legal affairs correspondent and a daughter of Roman Totenberg.   Continued...

The Ames Stradivarius violin.   REUTERS/FBI