Jean Baptiste Vuillaume, a Parisian violin dealer and maker, is the first documented owner of the 'Lady Blunt' Stradivarius and was in near perfect condition at the time he worked on it. Vuillaume sold it to Lady Anne Blunt in 1864.
Grand-daughter of Lord Byron, Lady Anne Blunt, whom the instrument is named after, was a British aristocrat and talented violinist who studied under Leopold Jansa. Jansa recommended to Vuillaume that he sell this Stradivarius to Lady Blunt. Lady Blunt played on the violin for thirty years before selling it.
This Stradivarius has been treasured by its previous 12 owners. Unlike the majority of existing Strads, it has been through very few wear-and-tear accidents. It is common for even the most careful musicians to still leave marks on their instrument. It is truly amazing this instrument has lived through 290 years and remains unflawed.
The violin is called the 'Lady Blunt' and was created by a renowned violin maker named Antonio Stradivari in 1721.
Along with Guareni violins, Stradivarius violins were first produced in the 17th century and are named after the family that crafted them during a peak era for quality violin manufacturing. Stradivarius Violins dates this 'golden period' of violin creation between the early 1700s-1720 and states Stradivarius violins made during this time where the best made by Antonio Stradivari and consequently the most valuable.
(L) The tuning pegs by J.B. Vuillaume
(R)The tailpiece by Jean Baptiste Vuillaume depicting St. Cecil, patron-saint of music
Another reason the Lady Blunt is so expensive is because of the unique sound quality and precision it produces along with other golden age violins. A 2005 research study published by the Violin Society of America verified the quality of these violins by comparing and analyzing sound pressure levels of Stradivari, Guareni and modern violins played by the same professional violinist. The study by Andres Buen determined older violins “have a higher response in the upper-low frequency” of sound and that “Stradivari violins have stronger notes on G-string and higher levels of overtones making them sound a bit more brilliant.”
The violin was acquired by the Tokyo-based Nippon Music Foundation in 2008. In June 2011 Tarisio conducted the sale of The Lady Blunt Stradivari, setting a world record of $15.9 million in the process. The Nippon Music Foundation made an extraordinary offer to assist in the recovery efforts of their native Japan. The Foundation pledged the entire proceeds of the sale to their Northeastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund.
The violin was one of 21 string instruments held by the foundation, which loans instruments free of charge to top class musicians around the world.
Around 600 violins made by Italian master craftsman Antonio Stradivari are still in existence.