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This Ultra-Rare, Centuries-Old Guarneri Violin Could Fetch Over $10 Million at Auction

The 292-year-old masterpiece has been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art twice.

The Guarneri ‘Baltic’ Violin Robert Bailey

Finding a Guarneri violin is needle in a haystack stuff. Only about 150 are known to exist and rarely become available to collectors. As luck would have it, however, one such stringed instrument will be put up for auction this spring.

The Guarneri in question, known as the Baltic, dates back nearly three centuries and has quite an incredible backstory. As such, it is expected to realize more than $10 million in a dedicated online sale that wraps up on March 16.

The Baltic was handmade circa 1731 by master luthier Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù, according to auction house Tarisio. For the unversed, the Guarneris were one of the three great violin-making families working in Cremona, Italy, during the 17th and 18th centuries. The family’s stringed instruments continue to rank among the world’s rarest. Musicians also say Guarneri violins have a deep, sonorous tone that distinguishes them from brighter Stradivari violins of the same era.

“The ‘Baltic’ is more than an exceptional instrument; it is a singular work of art,” Carlos Tomé, the director and head of sales at Tarisio, said in a statement.

The Baltic is the handiwork of scion Giuseppe—referred to as “del Gesù” to differentiate him from his father Giuseppe—who established a signature style in his 30s that set him apart from his predecessors. The del Gesù hallmarks include a shorter body, broader wings and distinct ‘hatchet-shaped’ sound holes.

Crafted from beautifully flamed, high-quality maple wood, the Baltic is said to have powerful sound and exquisite form. In fact, it has been exhibited twice at New York’s Metropolitan Museum in 1994 and the early 2000s, respectively. The 292-year-old violin also remains in excellent condition, mainly because it has been in the hands of only a few enthusiasts. In fact, it comes to auction after spending 50 years in the family collection of Sau-Wing Lam. The late Asian-American businessman amassed many rare instruments throughout his lifetime and also supported a number of aspiring musicians.

“Given the limited quantity of violins produced by del Gesù, the upcoming auction marks the first time in over 30 years that an instrument of this type has come to public sale,” Tomé adds. “We are honored to help this important violin find its next home, where we hope it will continue to be played, studied, and cared for as the Lam family has done for the last half-century.”

Sounds like you found that needle.

Click here to see all the photos of the Baltic.

Robert Bailey

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