NEW YORK, NY.- Sothebys
and Ingles & Hayday announced today that they are to offer for sale the finest viola in existence the Macdonald Viola by Antonio Stradivari (1644 1737) in a sealed bid process this Spring. Stradivaris name has become synonymous with perfection in the field of musical instruments. Of all the instruments made by him, violas are by far the rarest only ten survive, while his output during his long career included 600 violins and 50 cellos. A Stradivari viola is the ultimate prize for collectors and the Macdonald of 1719 is one of only two violas made during Stradivaris Golden Period (1700 1720), which saw the production of his finest instruments. In terms of condition, beauty of appearance and playing quality, the Macdonald is without peer. The viola will be offered through a sealed bid process, with bids expected in excess of US$45 million.*
David Redden, Sothebys Vice Chairman, commented: Every field is defined by one outstanding masterpiece which casts its shadow not only on its own domain but far beyond. The instruments of Stradivari are in a class of their own among the pinnacles of human craftsmanship and the Macdonald Viola stands at the unquestioned summit.
Tim Ingles, Director of Ingles & Hayday, commented: The finest of all Stradivari violas is generally agreed to be the Macdonald of 1719. It is immaculately preserved. No Stradivari viola has been on the market for the last fifty years so this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The Macdonald viola was purchased for Peter Schidlof of the Amadeus Quartet in 1964 and is being offered for sale by the family of the late musician, who died in 1987. The Macdonald has a long documented history, passing through the hands of many titled owners. It was purchased by Godfrey Bosville, the 3rd Baron Macdonald from whom its names derives in the 1820s. Only two Stradivari violas, of which the Macdonald is one, remain in private hands.**
The craftsmanship of the Macdonald viola is of incomparable quality. The front is of alpine spruce while the back is of a single piece of maple, and its almost complete coating of Stradivaris famous varnish has remained in a remarkably pure and undamaged state. The consistent rippling flame of the maple slopes downward from left to right, providing a beautiful shifting pattern beneath the varnish. This unbroken figure emphasises the particular virtues of the instrument: a strength, weight and muscularity that proclaim the viola as a force of its own in the violin family.
From the late 18th century when the popularity of Stradivaris work grew, collectors began to assemble quartets of Stradivaris instruments (two violins, one viola and one cello). It is practically impossible to assemble such a quartet today due to the extreme rarity of Stradivarius violas, thus making the appearance on the market of the Macdonald an historic event. Stradivaris reputation for perfection was established during the 19th century through the work of legendary virtuoso performers, such as the violinist Niccolò Paganini (1782 1840).
*US$45 million would mark a world record for a musical instrument. The current auction record for a musical instrument is the Lady Blunt Stradivarius violin of 1721, which was sold by the Nippon Music Foundation in June 2011 in an online auction for £9.8m (US$15.9m) to raise money for the Nippon Foundation's Northeastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund.
**The other privately owned Strad viola is held in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The 'Tuscan' contralto viola of 1690 (not to be confused with the tenore viola of the same name - Stradivari made a quintet with two violas, one big, called tenore, and one of what we now consider standard size, or contralto).