Letter from Count Cozio Offered at Auction

An original letter from Count Cozio writing from Milan, March 3, 1803, asking for the return of his Stradivari violin. Sold in our June 2017 London Auction

An original letter from the influential collector Count Cozio di Salabue asking for the return of his Stradivari violin will be a highlight of our June 2017 London auction

Count Ignazio Alessandro Cozio di Salabue (1755–1840) was the first renowned collector and connoisseur of stringed instruments.

In this letter, written to a certain Madame Donas, he asks for the return of his 1730 Stradivari violin. It took four months for the violin to be returned, and at the foot of the letter is a declaration from Mattia Berrone, Cozio’s agent, confirming the violin has been safely received. Berrone handled the Count’s affairs, saving him from the inconvenience of ungentlemanly transactions and negotiations. This 1730 violin is referenced in the Cozio Carteggio (see p. 222 of Memoirs of a Violin Collector: Count Ignazio Alessandro Cozio di Salabue by Brandon Frasier.)

‘…my particular circumstances lead me to ask you to return the Stradivari violin that I had loaned to Madame Donas.’

Cozio was one of the first to recognise the genius of Stradivari, and later became a sponsor of G.B. Guadagnini; indeed, it is thanks to Count Cozio that the early histories of many great Italian instruments are known to this day. This letter provides insight into the world of 18th-century fine instrument dealing, and the affairs of the great collector. For further information on Cozio, read our Carteggio article.

Cozio amassed an extensive collection of valuable instruments including violins by Stradivari, Guadagnini, Amati and Bergonzi. In doing so, he helped shape the fine instrument market that we still see today, and set an early precedent of collectors loaning their instruments to musicians.

Cozio was meticulous in keeping records of the instruments he handled, and his notebooks, which are called the ‘Cozio Carteggio’, have proved invaluable in understanding the 18th-century violin making world. It is extremely rare for a letter by Count Cozio to be offered for sale.

The letter was sold in Tarisio’s June 2017 London auction for £2,124.