Antonio Stradivari’s finest inlaid violin – ‘Hellier’ Stradivari Violin

New proportions became the “blueprint” for future violin designs. Enriching tone and having a profound effect on future centuries of music and generations of luthiers.

The Stradivarius ‘Hellier’, 1679, is the finest inlaid violin ever made by the world renowned genius craftsman Antonio Stradivari and one of the most beautiful Stradivari existing instruments (estimate: £6,000,000-9,000,000). An extremely rare and important example of by Stradivari work, this masterpiece is the headline lot of the exceptional July 7 sale and a highlight of London Classic Week.

The “Hellier” features new proportions that became the “blueprint” for future violin designs; enriching the tone and having a profound effect on future centuries of music and future generations of luthiers. It will be part of the presale exhibition of La Vente Exceptionnelle, from July 2 to 7.

Amjad RaoufHead of Exceptional Sales, International Head of Masterpiece and Private Sales, Christie’s Arts Décoratifs commented, “Christie’s is honored to offer the ‘Hellier’ violin, a rare masterpiece executed circa 1679 by the genius craftsman Antonio Stradivari, which is arguably his finest inlaid violin.

Previously in the greatest collections of musical instruments, and recently loaned to the Smithsonian Museum, this remarkable lot presents the market with a unique opportunity that exemplifies the finest works that are synonymous with The Outstanding Sale.”

Florian Leonhard, Christie’s Consultant, London commented: “Having handled countless Stradivarius, including some of the best examples, this is without doubt one of the most exciting, beautiful and impressive instruments in existence. The warmth and personality of an instrument of this caliber inspires a sense of youthful excitement in anyone lucky enough to hold it in their hands.

This violin embodies, more than most, Stradivari’s vision of getting things done; a reason why he deserves his place in the zenith as the unrivaled luthier of all time.

Antonio Stradivari's finest inlaid violin - 'Hellier' Stradivari Violin

Prized since creation until predefined day

The relationship Stradivari had with this violin seems to have been deeply personal, leading him to refuse to sell the instrument for 55 years. Stradivari eventually parted with it in 1734 at a sale for £40 to Mr. Samuel Hellier of Wombourne, England, in whose family the violin remained for nearly two centuries.

This hesitation to part with the violin has been observed in all the illustrious subsequent owners, from Henry E. Morris the press magnate and director of the Shanghai Daily Newsto the American collector Mr. Henry Hottinger, founder and member of an investment banking firm, which amassed one of the best-known collections of rare mid-20th century violins. The instrument was housed at both the Smithsonian Institution and the Museo Civico in Cremona.

Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737)

Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) is the most famous and revered Italian luthier, whose approximately 500 surviving violins are widely considered to be the finest and most valuable ever made. by Stradivari His supreme craftsmanship coupled with his inexhaustible artistic creativity resulted in instruments that all subsequent luthiers have aspired to and which have been sought after by the greatest musicians of every generation.

New proportions that became the “blueprint” for future violin designs

Made at the beginning of by Stradivari career, the 1679 “Hellier” Stradivarius was the first of his violins to evolve significantly from the strict proportions of the Amatisé period (1660-1690), scaled in a way that would form the “plan” for future violin models. Proportions that will not be exceeded later, it is an evolution that enriches the sound and will deeply mark several centuries of music and future generations of luthiers.

Ingenious in design and meticulous in execution

From the superior choice of wood to the exquisite ivory inlays, the “Hellier” is ingenious in its design and meticulous in its execution. by Stradivari 1679 ‘Hellier’ is an interesting violin for a variety of reasons. Besides the incredible inlay work – which the surviving designs have done in by Antonio the hand suggests he did it himself – the varnish technique he employs shows his first real attempt to improve on the method of the great Cremonese maker Nicolò Amati had developed.

Incredibly fine scroll work, increased violin volume, and beautiful f-holes all testify to Stradivari advancing existing practices. Nicolò Amati The influence can be seen in the perfectly symmetrical proportions of the head, the graceful grace of the pegbox and the small, deeply turned scrollwork. However, there is a bolder overall thrust to the outline of this violin, and the position and design of the f-holes surpass any instrument that has come before it.

The rich, intensely orange-yellow glaze above a thin, almost transparent gold undercoat also demonstrates some deviation from by Stradivari ‘Amatized’ style.

Between the two rows of nets, the “Hellier” presents a procession of nearly 500 precious stones. Beginning at the corners, carefully carved ivory circles alternately chased with delicately engraved ivory diamonds, displaying by Stradivari extraordinary skill in freehand inlay. This is complemented by the richly ornate silhouettes of flowers and vines carved into the wood and filled with an ebony filler, which weave around the ribs of the violin and pegbox.

The art of decorating instruments in this manner may have its roots in plucked string instruments such as lutes. The designs were first drawn on paper before being transferred to wood, and by Stradivari original designs and tools can be seen in the Museo del Violino in Cremona. Among the approximately 1,100 instruments Stradivari made during his career, only about a dozen are embellished with decorations, and this specimen is considered by curators at the Smithsonian to be the best-preserved extant example.

Antonio Stradivari's finest inlaid violin - 'Hellier' Stradivari Violin

Royal and aristocratic collections

So famous was Stradivari, and its instruments are so sought after that its instruments, especially the very rare decorated examples, have been treasured family heirlooms for the leading courts, counts, dukes and royal houses of Europe. The most remarkable of the Italian families is undoubtedly the Medici family of Florence, whose devotion to the fine arts led them to order instruments from Stradivari, but in particular a complete quartet, which exists today in a state of preservation almost intact.

Not only noble families, but also many royal families in Europe have been in possession of Stradivarius instruments with Empress Caterina of Russia from 1708, which belonged to Catherine the Great, Tsarina of Russia in the late 1700s. Other notable examples include the Early of Plymouth, the Duke of Cambridgethe Duke of Marlboroughthe Royal Palace of Madrid and King Ludwig II of Bavaria.

Favored by soloists throughout history

Most of history’s great soloists have preferred Stradivariand so many big names used Stradivari. Niccolo Paganini, one of the greatest violinists of all time, owned and played a selection of the finest violins ever made. Among these, Niccolo had a number of Stradivari violins that varied the entire creative output of Stradivari.

These include the Paganini-Desaint 1680, Le Brun 1712, Hubay 1726 and the Paganini, Comte Cozio di Salabue 1727. The Soil 1714 Stradivarius is widely regarded as one of the finest violins of the golden period and was acquired by Yehudi Menuhin in 1950, which was later sold to Itzhak Perlman in 1986. André Rieu famous bought his 1667 Stradivarius the “Captain Saville”, which he bought and on which he plays almost exclusively.

Other famous musicians include those such as Joseph Joachim, Jascha Heifetz, David Oistrakh, Jacqueline du Preetc Among the living soloists who use them are Anne-Sophie Mutter, Leonidas Kavakos, Maxim Vengerov, Joshua Bell, Steven Isserlis, Yo Yo Ma.

Key words:
Amjad Rauf, André Rieu, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Antonio Stradivari, AUCTION, Catherine the Great, Christies, David Oistrakh, Duke of Marlborough, England, Florian Leonhard, Henry E. Morris, Itzhak Perlman, Jacqueline du Pré, Jascha Heifetz, Joseph Joachim, Joshua Bell, King Ludwig II, Leonidas Kavakos, London, Maxim Vengerov, Mr Henry Hottinger, Museo del Violino, music, Niccolò Paganini, Nicolò Amati, Sale, Sir Samuel Hellier, Smithsonian Institution, Steven Isserlis, Duke of Cambridge, Kingdom United, Wombourne, Yo Yo Ma


Christie’s, the world’s leading art company, achieved auction sales in the first half of 2019 that totaled £2.2bn/$2.8bn. Christie’s is a name and a place that speaks of extraordinary craftsmanship, unparalleled service and international expertise. Christie’s offers approximately 350 auctions per year in more than 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewelry, photography, collectibles, wine, and more. Prices range from $200 to over $100 million. Christie’s also has a long and successful history of private sales for clients across all categories, with a focus on post-war and contemporary, impressionist and modern, old masters and jewellery.

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