"Alexandre Berthier, Marshal of France and Prince of Neuchatel, obtained this violin from Napoleon Bonaparte (probably as booty from the war in Spain).
Records of contemporary violin--makers suggest that Vuillaume later acquired the violin. In 1895 it passed into the hands of a French aristocratic family and thence to the violinmaker Germain in Paris. The Stuttgart firm of Hamma & Co. became the next owners in 1909. Hardly was the 'Berthier' in their possession when Caressa, a Paris violin--maker, sent Hamma a telegram asking him to bring the instrument to Geneva immediately as there was a prospective buyer. But in fact it was the Vecsey family in Berlin who were interested in it. Baron Franz von Vecsey acquired it for his then sixteen-year-old son, who played it at all his concerts right up to his death in 1935."
"The varnish with which it is still plentifully covered is the master's favourite orange-red, the tone is large, sonorous, and eminently suited for tile concert--hall. The form is that said to have been adopted by Stradivari in about 1708-09, the widths being full, and the length of body 14 1/8 inches. The back is of the fine, broadly-marked maple seen in numbers of the maker's instruments of this, his best period. There appears to have been in one place a piece of faulty material, which Stradivari himself covered up with a small V--shaped veneer, but this is invisible, or nearly so in photographs."
The 'Marechal Berthier' Stradivari, The Strad, July, 1911, London
"Although it was long thought to be one of the 12 violins the master built for the King of Poland, it is now almost certain that the violin left Stradivari's shop to be delivered to the Court of Spain, where it remained until the French occupation. Napoleon's General Alexandre Berthier, the Commander-in-Chief of the victorious expedition, brought the instruments to France -- probably as part of the spoils of war -- and received it later as a "gift" from the emperor himself....
Von Vecsey came to an untimely end in 1935, and after his death, the Strad was held in custody in the vault of the Bank of Rome for 22 years....
After the 1956 Hungarian revolution, Mrs. Charlotte von Kovacs-Sebestény, von Vecsey's sister, left Hungary and came into possession of the instrument. A few months later, the violin was bought by an Italian gentleman, who, at that time, had just begun to assemble what was to become one of Europe's most important collections, at present owned by a private Italian Foundation."
Elective Affinities: Tributes to Antonio Stradivari by well-known players & experts, Franco Gulli, The Strad, December, 1987, London