Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737 Cremona, Italy) is considered to be the greatest violin maker in history. Surviving violins of Stradivari in pristine condition are extraordinarily rare, and nearly all of such instruments are accounted for in museums, institutions, or in famous private collections. These violins include the “Messiah” (1716), the “Lady Blunt” (1721), the “Medici” (1716), and the “Pucelle” (1709). Currently, an exceptionally fine Stradivari violin made in 1717 is available for sale. This particular instrument is preserved in the same pristine condition as the four aforementioned examples, and was created during Stradivari’s high golden-period.
The violin’s illustrious provenance can be traced back to Franz Eck (1774-1804), a contemporary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and a musician who knew and performed with Mozart on numerous occasions. Franz Eck was reputed to be one of the leading German violinists of his day, and was the teacher to the famous composer and violinist Louis Spohr. In the 20th century, the violin was owned by one of the most famous collectors in history, Gerald Segelman. This particular instrument was the crown jewel of his entire collection, and was affectionately known by Mr. Segelman as the “The Gerald.”
The violin is featured in numerous publications with detailed photographs by Herbert Goodkind (1972), Walter Hamma (1964), and most recently by Andrew Hooker (2009). The “Eck” is regarded as one of the purest surviving works of Antonio Stradivari with all original, unpolished varnish that is of a similar composition to the “Messiah” Stradivari constructed one year earlier in 1716.
CLARENCE S. PAYNE
LONDON, U.K. (1946)
W.E. HILL & SONS
GEORGE D.N. NEILL
The “Eck” Stradivari of 1717 (after Franz Eck, 1774-1804, whose moniker it retains), was the steadfast companion of Franz Eck throughout his myriad journeys and concerts in Germany, France, & Russia. The noted composer Louis Spohr (who at one point was as famous as Beethoven) was a pupil of Franz Eck, and accompanied him on this grand concert tour. Spohr narrated these peregrinations in great detail in his Autobiography, which are fascinating stories in their own right. Franz Eck journeyed as far as St. Petersburg, Russia (with his Stradivari), and decided to remain there, taking the position of first violin of the Tzar’s Imperial Orchestra in order to marry the daughter of a member of the Imperial Orchestra.
It is miraculous how Franz Eck’s 1717 Stradivari remains to this day in near perfect, pristine condition, especially considering the concerts and journeys that Franz Eck took with this violin.
The violin’s new owner will join the ranks of some of the most famous and important collectors in history, and will own an instrument worthy of the top museums in the world exhibiting the “Eck” Stradivari.
The firm W.E. Hill & Sons sold this violin in the 20th century to some of the most important collectors, including two previous owners that also owned the “Lady Blunt” Stradivari of 1721 (J.E. Street and Richard Bennett). In a letter detailing the provenance of the violin in 1946, W.E. Hill & Sons remarked that they “consider this violin entitled to rank amongst the best existing examples of the maker [Antonio Stradivari].”
(I) Hamma, Walter. Italian Violin Makers. Stuttgart, Germany 1964. Florian Noetzel Verlag (8th Edition). Pages 558-559.
(II) Goodkind, Herbert. Violin Iconography of Antonio Stradivari. Larchmont, New York, 1972. Page 494.
(III) Hooker, Andrew. Mr. Black’s Violins: The Extraordinary Obsession of Gerald Segelman. Cozio Publishing, 2009. Page 13.
(IV) W.E. Hill & Sons Photographic Archive. W.E. Hill & Sons Certificate (1946), W.E. Hill & Sons Letter Detailing the Instrument’s Provenance.