Giovanni Battista Guadagnini, Turin, 1782, the 'Salabue, Chapman'

Violin: 40617

Labeled, "Jo: Bap: Guadagnini Cremonem: fecit Taurini directione D. I. A. Cotii Typus Antonii Stradivari 177-" with a double-barred cross over the maker's monogram.

Back: Two-piece showing medium flames descending slightly from the joint

Top: of spruce of medium grain at the center, wider at the flanks

Ribs: with broader flames

Varnish: Golden red-brown

Length of back: 35.3 cm

Upper bouts: 16.7 cm

Middle bouts: 10.7 cm

Lower bouts: 20.3 cm


"In yet another post Sept. 11 related incident, violinist Lara St. John was wrestled to the ground by an armed guard at New York's La Guardia airport when she tried to stop him from inspecting her instrument. The incident was quickly resolved and the violinist dismissed it as a misunderstanding.

St. John, a rising young virtuoso in classical music, reportedly lunged at the guard when he attempted to touch her $1 million Guadagnini violin with a cloth. The violinist said later that she thought the cloth might contain chemicals that would do harm to the instrument's finish. She reportedly cried out, "No! No! It's an antique!"

St. John's violin dates from 1779 and was made by the Italian master in Turin. The violin is on loan to St. John from an anonymous donor. She says she prefers it to the 1702 Lyall Stradivarius which she previously played."

"This violin, hailed by many as the world's greatest Guadagnini, has an interesting background, at least that which we know, from the 20th century onwards. Apparently a loving father bought it back in the 20s or 30s for his young violinist son, in California. This boy was doing very well - he studied with Zimbalist, and at the age of 16 played a concerto at the Hollywood Bowl. At the age of 17, he contracted tuberculosis and died that year. His father was heartbroken, so much so that he entombed the Guadagnini and some bows along with his son. (the details are a bit sketchy, but I have to assume that he had a mausoleum erected for him).

This was the case for about fifty years, until finally the violin came back to light again. I am not sure if the father passed away, or if he decided it should be played again, or what, but apparently it was sold to an amateur for a while in the 80s.

Finally, it started making the rounds of various luthiers, some of whom were rather spooked by the story. A few years ago it came up for auction and was bought by an anonymous donor who has now lent it to St. John."

This instrument was apparently made especially for Count Cozio di Salabue sometime after 1780, though the label is dated 1770. It was among the Count's collection of about fifty Guadagnini violins that were found when the count died in 1840.

The 'Salabue' Guadagnini, The Strad, April, 1970, London


until 1840 Count Ignazio Alessandro Cozio di Salabue
Alfredo Piatti
until 1902 Silvestre & Maucotel
from 1902 Greims
Sold by Caressa & Français
in 1916 Sold by Lyon & Healy
Roy Gronsky
from 1950 Ernö Neufeld
in 1970 Theodore Marchetti
... ...
in 1977 Theodore Marchetti
... ...
from 1985 Current owner

Known players

Lara St. John

Certificates & Documents

  • Certificate: Caressa & Français, Paris (1916)
  • Certificate: Silvestre & Maucotel, Paris (1902) Mentions that the instrument was formerly owned by both Count Cozio de Salabue and Alfredo Piatti.

Cozio holds copies of many certificates and other documents, some of which are available to view on request. Please contact us if you wish to view a particular document. (Note that we do not always have permission to share documents.)



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