Estimate in excess of $10 million US
The Most Important Violin of its Type to Come to Auction in 30 Years
NEW YORK, Feb. 15, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- Tarisio, the leading global auction house for fine musical instruments and bows, has been entrusted with the sale of a rare masterpiece: the 292-year-old Guarneri violin known as the 'Baltic'. It is estimated to achieve in excess of US$10 million in an online auction that runs to March 16, 2023.
Side, front and back views of the nearly 300-year-old violin known as the 'Baltic': Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù of c. 1731. To be offered at auction March 15-16, 2023 at Tarisio New York.
The 'Baltic' was hand-made circa 1731 by master luthier Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù, the scion of one of the three great violin-making families in Cremona, Italy whose stringed instruments are among the world's most rare and prized musical instruments. The violin is being offered for sale after almost 50 years in the family collection of the late Asian-American businessman Sau-Wing Lam, a musician and noted collector of rare musical instruments who generously supported young musicians throughout his lifetime.
Throughout its near 300-year history, musicians, curators and collectors have cherished the 'Baltic' for its powerful sound and exquisite form. In the 1950s, the classical musician Dorotha Powers (who once taught violin to baseball legend Mickey Mantle) traded in two Stradivari violins to purchase the 'Baltic' from the Wurlitzer Company. Since Mr. Lam's acquisition of the instrument in 1979, it has been exhibited twice at New York's Metropolitan Museum; in 1994 as part of a curated exhibition of 25 exceptional Guarneri instruments, and again in 2012/13, when the museum hosted an exhibition and concert series dedicated to Mr. Lam's prestigious collection of fine Italian stringed instruments and French bows.
Guarneri violins are prized by musicians for their deep and sonorous tone. Isaac Stern, Jascha Heifetz, and Itzhak Perlman are among the great artists who have performed on the world's stages with Guarneri violins. Their comparative rarity also contributes to their lasting value; only about 150 Guarneri violins are known to exist. The 'Baltic' was crafted from beautifully-flamed, high-quality maple wood that is among the finest ever used by violin-makers of the era. It remains in excellent condition and is accompanied by a dendrochronology report and certificates from W. E. Hill & Sons, Rembert Wurlitzer and Tarisio.
The museum-quality status of the 'Baltic' derives as much from its historical significance as its remarkable quality and excellent state of preservation. In 1731, around the time the violin was crafted by hand, the 32-year-old Giuseppe – referred to as "del Gesù" by historians to better distinguish him from his father Giuseppe – had struck out on his own after his father's retirement and began to break with long-established practices established by his grandfather, father and uncle. With its shorter body length, broader wings, and distinct 'hatchet-shaped' sound-holes, the 'Baltic' is among the first violins to bear the hallmarks of del Gesù's signature style, and marks the start of a new era of excellence for the Guarneri name.
Carlos Tomé, Director and Head of Sales at Tarisio, noted: "The 'Baltic' is more than an exceptional instrument; it is a singular work of art. Given the limited quantity of violins produced by del Gesù, the upcoming sale marks the first time in over 30 years that an instrument of this type has come to public sale. 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."
A Benefactor's Legacy
In his native Shanghai, Sau-Wing Lam (1923-1988) studied music and played viola in a theater orchestra, and remained an ardent supporter of classical music for the rest of his life. After graduating from university, he moved to Hong Kong to work for Hang Seng Bank, and was transferred to New York in 1948 to establish the U.S. presence for the Dah Chong Hong Trading Corporation. Under DCH's umbrella, he opened successful automobile dealerships across the country.
Together with his wife Jean, an amateur pianist, the Lams became important benefactors to rising musicians in the U.S. and beyond, offering financial support, sponsorship, and even the long-term loan of instruments from their own collection.
Among the students who graduated into professional music careers as a result of Mr. Lam's sponsorship and generosity is Chinese cellist Jian Wang. He attended Yale School of Music with the Lam family's support, and became the first-ever Chinese musician to sign an exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon. He has performed with major orchestras and under the world's leading conductors, with an extensive discography that includes Brahms's Double Concerto with Gil Shaham and the Berlin Philharmonic under Claudio Abbado. He is a judge for classical music's most prestigious competitions, including the Tchaikovsky cello competition, the Queen Elisabeth cello competition, and the Wieniawski Violin Competition. Throughout his near 40-year music career, he has played a cello loaned to him by the Lam family.
"Sau-Wing Lam was one of the great unsung heroes of the music world," said Jian Wang. "Through his vital support of musicians and his careful stewardship of the musical instruments he collected, he established a remarkable legacy that is ready to be shared and passed on to the next generation."
To view the catalogue and video of concert violinists playing the 'Baltic':
Public Exhibition (New York): February 22 – March 16, 10am – 5pm
Bidder registration opens February 28, 2023
Online Auction: March 15-16, 2023
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Tarisio is the leading international auction house for fine and rare stringed instruments and bows. Launched in 1999, Tarisio revolutionized the instrument market by combining first-class expertise, the efficiency of internet bidding and a firm commitment to ethics and professionalism. Tarisio strives to increase the accessibility of buying and selling instruments for musicians, collectors and members of the trade.
With offices in New York, London and Berlin, Tarisio conducts 8 auctions per year, as well as numerous private sales of high-value items, selling more than 3,000 fine instruments and bows to a truly global market. Tarisio has conducted the industry's highest profile sales in recent years, including the estate Collection of Isaac Stern, the sale of the 'Lady Blunt' Stradivarius of 1721 for a world record $15.9 million and the 'da Vinci, ex-Seidel' Stradivarius of 1714 for $15.3 million, the 'Molitor' Stradivarius of 1697 and the 'Maazel' Guadagnini of 1783, among many others.
Violinist Lisa Batiashvili plays the 'Baltic', a nearly 300 year-old violin by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù, to be offered at auction March 15-16 at Tarisio New York.