Antonio Stradivari, Cremona, 1709, the 'La Pucelle, Virgin, Maiden'

Violin: 40212

Number of images available: 7.
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Back: Two-piece

Length of back: 35.3 cm

Upper bouts: 16.7 cm

Middle bouts: 10.7 cm

Lower bouts: 20.6 cm

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"The striped wood, especially on the back, glows like a polished tiger's-eye gemstone. The intricately carved pegs were added by the famous 19th-century French violin maker Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, who was said to have exclaimed, "It's a virgin!" when he first saw the beautifully preserved instrument. The tailpiece is carved with an image of "La Pucelle" (Joan of Arc, commonly called the Maid of Orleans).

The instrument is practically weightless. How could anything so delicate survive so perfectly for more than three centuries?

"La Pucelle has no cracks, no retouching, no worn-down corners or edges," marvels Fulton.

"It has new fittings, but otherwise it's just like it left Antonio Stradivari's hands. The sound is very pure. That should be preserved.""

"This is one of my finest," Fulton says afterward. "It's the finest Strad not in a museum, the finest one in the U.S." Don't ask him where he got it (it had been hidden away "in private hands" for the past 50 years, and Fulton actually is bound by contract not to reveal the identity of the seller for a decade).

Instrument #90 at the South Kensington Special Exhibition of 1872.

Catalogue of the Special Exhibition at South Kensington, England, Catalogue of the Special Exhibition at South Kensington, England, London

"This violin has never previously been heard on a recording."

Homage, Onyx Classics, 2008

"Beare remembers telling Fulton, "I have in hand the very best Strad that will ever be available to you, almost certainly the finest Stradivari that's not in a museum and certainly the best-preserved. This is the last chance you'll ever have to get a fiddle this great. Are you interested?"

Fulton agreed, sight unseen.

There was a hitch. Beare said the confidentiality agreement proposed by Bock was so onerous that it would forbid the purchaser from revealing that he owned the violin, much less who he bought it from, or even the seller's gender. He could not play it in the presence of anyone, ever. Fulton responded that the violin either was for sale, or it wasn't. A less restrictive arrangement was negotiated: The buyer agreed to a 10-year-ban on revealing the previous owner. Fulton agreed to this, and won't discuss the seller until the agreement expires in 2011, when he plans to describe it in his biography."

"A Stradivarius, signed and dated 1709, was sold at the Hotel Drouot on Thursday. It was put up at 10,000 f. and was adjudicated to the large sum of 22,100 f. A droll incident occurred during the sale, as when the instrument had been bid up to 18,000 f.there was a great press of the curious to get a sight of it, and a table was suddenly upset and three or four persons standing on it were overturned amidst the general confusion of the crowd. "Do not be alarmed, "exclaimed the auctioneer, "the violin is safe.""

News, Pall Mall Gazette, London

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