AUCTION REPORT: October 2014 sales

Plenty of high-value Vuillaumes but some low sales percentages marked out the autumn auctions week

A bumper week of sales in late October featured a newcomer to the online auctions business as well as some bidding innovations. Violins by Stradivari, Guadagnini and Pressenda were among the top lots, alongside a handful of strong-performing Vuillaumes. Results weren’t exactly spectacular, though, with most houses’ sales-by-volume percentage falling into the 50s and mid-60s.

J&A Beare joined the fray with its new boutique online division, Beares Auctions. In a sale of 47 lots, 31 sold for a total of £3.7m. Nearly half of that figure was brought in by a c1698 Stradivari violin, the ‘Cabriac’, which went for just over £1.7m. A late Turin-period Guadagnini violin made £730,000, and a c1750 Nicolò Gagliano violin netted a shade under £120,000.

In addition to regular online bidding, Beares also offered a ‘buy now’ option for many of the lots, giving buyers the chance to purchase an instrument for a fixed price before the main bidding opened. The fixed price was between the low and the high estimate and was agreed by the seller. This option proved reasonably popular, with 12 lots selling via ‘buy now’ for a total of nearly £450,000.

Tarisio also introduced a ‘buy now’ facility for its London sale, and sold its top lot, an 1832 Pressenda violin, by this method for £247,950. Although the highest-estimated instrument, a 1770 Guadagnini violin, failed to sell, Tarisio shifted a solid 75.6 per cent of its lots, bringing in more than £1.7m. That wasn’t quite as strong as its New York sale of two weeks earlier, which hit 87 per cent and topped $4m. The leading lot there was a GB Gabrielli violin of 1756, which made $470,000, and the seller of a violin ascribed to Neapolitan maker Alessandro Gagliano must have been happy when it went for $144,000 on an estimate of $30,000–$50,000.

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A Vuillaume violin of c1845 was Amati’s top lot, selling for £62,000

Back in London, following a successful string exhibition, Amati’s top lot was a c1845 Vuillaume violin, which made £62,000. Gardiner Houlgate had four cellos in its top five lots, one French – a 1927 instrument by Joseph Aubry of Le Havre, which sold for £7,200 – and the others English. A gold- and tortoiseshell-mounted Voirin violin bow netted Gardiner Houlgate’s highest price, making £8,160 on an estimate of £1,000–£1,500.

Two 20th-century Milanese violins posted the best results at Bonhams: a 1921 Leandro Bisiach went for £52,500 and an early Giuseppe Ornati from 1920 for £40,000. Other highlights were a c1680 violin attributed to Nicolò Amati, which made £37,500, and a Cremonese viola by Gio Batta Morassi from 1970, which sold for £20,000. Bonhams also had an unusual offering in the shape of a complete quartet of instruments, made in 1969 by Italian luthier Cesar Castelli, which sold as one lot for £32,500.

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A violin attributed to Stradivari sold for £624,000 at Ingles & Hayday

Ingles & Hayday scored an impressive result with its top lot, a violin attributed to Stradivari that once belonged to Alfonso Marconi, the brother of radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi. Estimated at £140,000–£180,000, it sold for £624,000 to an Italian musician. There were also strong showings by an Andrea Guarneri violin of c1665, which made £336,000 on an estimate of £180,000–£250,000, and yet another Vuillaume, this time an 1863 violin, which went for £144,000.

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