Antonio Stradivari, Cremona, c. 1709, the 'Warde'


Violin: 41351

Reported stolen in 1869

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Notes:

Stolen from an attaché in the British Embassy at St. Petersburg, 1869, and not seen since.

Antonio Stradivari: His Life & Instruments, W. Henry, Arthur F. & Alfred E. Hill, W. Henry, Arthur F. & Alfred E. Hill, Antonio Stradivari: His Life & Work (1644-1737), London


"Well, the following year, 1869, Mr. Warde was at St. Petersburg, where, as already stated, he was an attaché - a rather a good position for so young a man - and was, probably, in the full enjoyment of his fine instrument, the tones of which must have been admired at many a musical gathering of the higher aristocracy.

That same year I was returning, one afternoon, from town - think it was in the month of October, or perhaps, earlier - when, just as I entered my carriage, I purchased a Globe newspaper to see the latest news of the Franco-Prussian war. In the course of a few minutes I came upon a paragraph announcing with great regret the death of the young English attaché at the Embassy of St. Petersburg. I was much pained in reading this announcement, for I at once recognized the talented violinist I had met accidentally at George Hart's music shop.

Being much occupied at the time I did not visit town again for several months ; but one day I called at Hart's for some music which he had kindly procured for me, and told him what I had seen in The Globe newspaper, asking him if he knew it.

"Oh, yes," he replied, "it is very sad - so young, and such an enthusiastic violinist - his mother's only son! "

" It appears that after playing at a musical evening in the house of one of his friends," he continued, " he was fondling a parrot, which bit him upon the lip. At first nothing was thought of the slight wound ; but he afterwards caught cold, and it festered, producing blood-poisoning, to which, unfortunately, he succumbed."

"What a sad ending to a career so brilliantly begun ! " I exclaimed. Then, after a slight pause, I added, " I wonder what will become of his fine Stradivari violin ?"

" Ah ! " replied Hart, " that is a question which nobody can answer ! "

" What do you mean ?" I asked.

He then went on to explain that after the sad occurrence just referred to, the mother of the young violinist, the Hon. Mrs. Warde, wrote to ask him (Mr. Hart) if he would take back the valuable violin so recently purchased from him. To which Hart, with his well known frankness and generosity, at once replied that he would be happy to do so, charging only a slight commission. But when he opened the box - Oh ! What a surprise ! - instead of the fine Stradivari instrument, there was " a common fiddle "-it could hardly be called a violin - which was worth, perhaps, about twenty shillings !

There appears to be little doubt that the robbery had been effected in St. Petersburg, as it was most positively asserted, and afterwards proved, that the violin case had never been opened since it reached England, until the moment when this disgraceful theft was discovered to have been perpetrated. Poor George Hart, in whom I lose a highly valued friend, is long since dead ; his son, the present representative of that well known house, was very young at the time of the above incidents, and probably I am one of the few persons who could recognize, with tolerable certainty, the stolen Stradivari, should I ever see it again.

In conclusion I may endeavour to describe this interesting violin as it now presents itself to my memory.

It was a very elegant instrument, and in perfect preservation ; rather flatter than the generality of Stradivari violins. It was said to be dated 1709 (but I did not see the label), and to have previously formed part of the Plowden collection. The colour was monotonous, a rather dark brown, and dull ; but all along the purfling it was inlaid with small triangular ivory plates, or ivory and ebony, alternately black and white, which gave it, of course, a very striking appearance.

This was the only Stradivari violin that I had ever seen decorated in this manner, but I had long been aware that violins of other makers are thus inlaid, and when I first saw the instrument in question, this fact made me doubt that it was really by the great Cremonese maker to whom it was attributed. The tone was brilliant and soft, though not of a peculiarly luscious character. That is about all I can remember of it."

Mr. Warde's Stradivari

Provenance

- C. H. C. Plowden
1868 - 1869 Warde
from 1869 Reported stolen

References

  • Antonio Stradivari: His Life & Work (1644-1737), W. Henry, Arthur F. & Alfred E. Hill, William E. Hill & Sons, London, 1902
  • Mr. Warde's Stradivari, February

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