March 27, 2008 / 7:36 PM / in 10 years

Rare Stradivarius, The Penny, on auction in NY

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.

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

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.

“The Hammer” dates from 1707, during Stradivari’s gold period between 1700 and 1720.

“The Penny” has “a sweeter sound, more bell-like,” than “The Hammer,” which is more masculine, said Kerry Keane, specialist head of musical instruments at Christie’s.

Penny owned the Stradivarius from 1929 until her death last year. She was the first woman accepted to the strings section of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Musician Jesus Reina plays a Stradivarius violin known as "The Penny," at Christie's Auction House in New York, March 27, 2008. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Editing by Daniel Trotta and Doina Chiacu

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