"One of the most esteemed violinist-educators in America, Josef Gingold held the first violin chair in the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Arturo Toscanini and later taught top-notch violinists at Indiana University.
Before his death in 1995, Gingold gave the violin--known as the "Martinelli" -- to his son, George. Three years later, the younger Gingold brought the instrument into the fashionable shop of dealer Rene Morel, on West 54th Street in Manhattan, wondering what it was worth.
Morel, who comes from a long line of highly regarded French violinmakers and restorers, made precise measurements of the violin and pointed out that cosmetic work was needed.
He said the violin sounded sweet but lacked the heft required of a concert violin that might be used in the world's largest auditoriums. Morel added that the violin normally would be worth $800,000, but since it had been owned by the great Josef Gingold, Morel could price it at $1.25 million, according to George Gingold, who provided his version of the deal in a federal court case.
Morel told Gingold that he usually takes a 20 percent commission, but would guarantee $1 million, a price Gingold accepted.
Gingold later ran across a newspaper article reporting that Morel had sold the instrument to the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis for $1.6 million, a 60 percent markup.
Gingold sued. In their defense, Morel and his new partner, Emmanuel Gradoux-Matt, showed that Gingold had signed an agreement to guarantee his cut to be $1 million, no matter the sale price. Gingold disputed the contract.
A federal judge in March rejected a motion by the attorneys for Morel and Gradoux-Matt's firm to dismiss the suit.
The judge cited the more than one-third sales commission, writing that Gingold "could recover under a theory of unjust enrichment" and that "the jury could well find this amount exceeded the reasonable value" of the violin dealer's services.
Soon after, the parties reached an agreement that they will not disclose, though the violin remains in the possession of the Indianapolis group."