The ‘Molitor’ Stradivarius of 1697

July 29th, 2010

Tarisio is pleased to announce the star lot for the October 2010 sale: a fine 1697 Stradivarius violin in excellent condition, fresh to the market, with over 200 years of provenance, an original label and many distinguished past owners. Sale date October 14, 2010. Estimates available upon request.

Madame Recamier, painted by Jacques-Louis David, 1800 

The Molitor first surfaces in Paris around the turn of the 19th Century in the hands of Madame Juliette Récamier (1777-1849), a prominent socialite and patroness of the arts in post-revolutionary France. Married at the age of fifteen to a wealthy banker 30 years her senior, Madame Récamier held a fashionable salon that was frequented by leading artists, musicians and the political elite of French Empire society. In addition to the Molitor, Madame Récamier also owned another Stradivarius from the year 1727. It’s not known for certain how Madame Récamier came into possession of these two violins, but Herbert Goodkind’s Violin Iconography of Antonio Stradivarius and other references name their first owner as none other than Napoleon Bonaparte.

Count Gabriel Jean Joseph Molitor

In 1804 Madame Récamier’s two violins passed to a young General in Napoleon’s army, the Count Gabriel-Jean-Joseph Molitor (1770-1849). Count Molitor was evidently a musician of some stature as well as a distinguished soldier under both Napoleon and the Bourbons. After Count Molitor died in 1849 the violins remained in the possession of the Molitor family for nearly 70 years.

At the height of World War I in 1917 the two violins changed hands and parted company, and the Molitor made its way to Monsieur J Mazeran through the firm of Caressa & Français.

In the summer of 1929 the Molitor was acquired by the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia from the Parisian dealer Charles Enel. At the time, the violin had certificates from Charles Enel and also from Silvestre & Maucotel, both of which have since been lost. Upon receipt by Curtis, the violin was branded “CURTIS PHILA” to the lower rib and entered Curtis’s formidable fleet of loaned instruments. During its time at Curtis the Molitor was loaned to several promising students including Henri Temianka, Jascha Brodsky, Ethel Stark and others. In 1936 the Molitor was sold to the firm of W. E. Hill & Sons.

In 1937 the Hills sold the violin to a Mr. R. A. Bower of Somerset, England and in 1957 E. R. Voigt sold the violin to a Miss Muriel Anderson of Londonderry in Northern Ireland.

Elmar Oliveira acquired the Molitor at Christies in 1989 and concertized and recorded with it until he acquired the c. 1729 Stretton del Gesu around the time of the Guarneri exhibit in 1994.  Mr. Oliveira, the first American violinist to win the gold medal at the Tchaikovsky Competition, has enjoyed a distinguished career as a soloist and a champion of new music.


Length of back: 35.5 cm
Upper bouts: 16.1 cm
Center bouts: 10.9 cm
Lower bouts: 20.1 cm

Condition report:

Download here.


Herbert Goodkind, The Violin Iconography of Antonio Stradivari


The Molitor and other selected highlights from the October sale are available for viewing by appointment in Tarisio’s New York offices. Appointments can also be made for private viewing at the following cities from September 15 to October 10:

• New York
• Toronto
• Chicago
• Los Angeles
• San Francisco
• Tokyo
• Taipei
• Zurich
• Munich
• Cremona
• London
• Boston

In addition the violin can be viewed at our scheduled public viewings:

Cremona: October 1-3 (Mondomusica)
London: October 4-5 (The Westbury Hotel)
New York: October 6-8 (Tarisio)
Boston: October 9-10 (Boston Park Plaza Hotel)
New York: October 11-12 (Tarisio)

Please contact Ethan Ladd at or +1.800.814.4188 to inquire about appointments. We welcome your inquiries.


Current owner (1994 – present)
Elmar Oliveira (1989 – 1994)
Miss Muriel Anderson, Londonderry (1957 – 1989)
Mr. R. A. Bower, Somerset (1937 – 1957)
The Curtis Institute, Philadelphia (1929 – 1936)
J. Mazeran, Paris (1917 – 1923)
Molitor family (1849 – 1917)
Count Gabriel-Jean-Joseph Molitor, Paris (1804 – 1849)
Madame Juliette Récamier, Paris (? – 1804)


Certificate from W. E. Hill & Sons, London (March 23, 1937)
Letter from Alfred Hill, London (March 23, 1937)
Certificate from E. R. Voigt, London (February 7, 1957)
Certificate from Emile Herrmann, New York (photocopy only)

Lost certificates mentioned in the Curtis Institute files:

Charles Enel, Paris (August 30, 1929)
Silvestre & Maucotel (November 28, 1923)


Bidding is conducted online at on October 14th, 2010. Phone bidding is encouraged at +1.212.307.7224.  Preregistration is required 24 hours before the sale.