Titanic violin sets auction record $1.7m at Henry Aldridge


The violin that bandleader Wallace Hartley played as the Titanic sank has set a new auction record for any item of memorabilia from the doomed ship.

Titanic bandleader violin auction
According to the vendor, an experienced musician, the violin is virtually unplayable

In front of a packed auction room on October 19 in Devizes, UK, the violin sold for an outstanding ?�1m ($1.7m) including buyer's premium, becoming the world's most valuable item to have survived the sinking. The sale price was a 254% increase on its guide price of ?�300,000.

The tale of Wallace Hartley and "The Band That Played On" has become legendary, with Hartley leading the group in the hymn Nearer My God to Thee to calm the ship's passengers, and in the process sacrificing his own life.

Titanic violin auction Hartley
Titanic's heroic bandleader is remembered by a bust, erected outside the church where he began his career, in his hometown of Colne, Lancashire

The sale marks the end of a seven-year authentication process for the auction house, after the violin was discovered in an attic in Yorkshire. It had originally been found in a leather case strapped to Wallace Hartley's body, and was returned to his fiancee, Maria Robinson - who had given it to Hartley as an engagement present in 1910 - when the body was recovered.

It bears a plaque that reads: "For Wallace on the occasion of our engagement from Maria".

There has been much debate about the authenticity of the piece, yet extensive tests and a diary entry from Robinson stating that it was saved from the water appear to have expelled all doubt.

Following Robinson's death, the violin was given to a local charity shop, and was then bought by the current owner's mother in the 1940s.

Titanic Sea Burial photograph
This rare photograph shows the horrific conditions endured by rescuers and survivors after the event on board other ships

"Bandleader Hartley was an incredibly brave man whose actions helped to calm passengers during Titanic's last hours," explained company principal Andrew Aldridge.

"The authentication process behind the collection has been a long and exhaustive one with some of the world's leading experts in their respective fields helping to assemble a conclusive package of independent reports to accompany the archive".

The previous record for any other item of Titanic memorabilia was held by a 33ft-long technical drawing of the ship, which sold for ?�220,000 ($355,553) in 2011. See Wikicollecting's Top 10 Titanic Memorabilia list.

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