Tarisio Auctions Expecting $10M+ for c. 1731 'Baltic' Guarneri del Gesù Violin

February 16, 2023, 4:25 PM · It's pretty rare for a Guarneri del Gesù violin to hit the auction block, but that's what is happening March 16 with Tarisio's auction of the "Baltic" del Gesù violin, made circa 1731.

Alongside Antonio Stradivari, Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù is considered one of the finest violin-makers in history, whose remaining instruments are valued in the millions of dollars.

Baltic Guarneri del Gesu
The c. 1731 ‘Baltic’ Guarneri del Gesù Violin, from four angles. Photo courtesy Tarisio auctions.

Stradivari was born in 1644, about a half-century before Guarneri del Gesù, and both makers practiced their craft in their hometown of Cremona, Italy. But while some 650 Stradivari violins have survived the ages, only about 150 Guarneri del Gesù violins remain, making them even rarer.

BELOW: 2019 Queen Elisabeth Competition First Prize winner Stella Chen and international concert violinist Lisa Batiashvili demonstrate the instrument:

Tarisio estimating that the "Baltic" violin will fetch a price in excess of $10 million.

"The museum-quality status of the ‘Baltic’ derives as much from its historical significance as its remarkable quality and excellent state of preservation," writes Tarisio. "In 1731, around the time the violin was crafted by hand, the 32-year-old Giuseppe – referred to as 'del Gesù' by historians to better distinguish him from his father Giuseppe – had struck out on his own after his father’s retirement and began to break with long-established practices established by his grandfather, father and uncle. With its shorter body length, broader wings, and distinct ‘hatchet-shaped’ sound-holes, the ‘Baltic’ is among the first violins to bear the hallmarks of del Gesù’s signature style, and marks the start of a new era of excellence for the Guarneri name."

The instrument was most recently owned by the Lam family, having been bought in 1979 by businessman, violin collector and music patron Sau-Wing Lam. Born in Shanghai, Lam, studied music and played viola in a theater orchestra. After graduating from university, he moved to Hong Kong and then to New York in 1948 to establish the U.S. presence for the Dah Chong Hong Trading Corporation. Under DCH’s umbrella, he opened successful automobile
dealerships across the country.

He was a lifelong supporter of classical music, and he and his wife, Jean, supported numerous young musicians with sponsorship and instrument loans. Chinese cellist Jian Wang attended Yale School of Music with the Lam family’s support, and Wang has played a cello loaned to him by the Lam family throughout his four-decade career.

The "Baltic" del Gesù was exhibited at New York’s Metropolitan Museum in 1994 as part of a curated exhibition of 25 exceptional Guarneri instruments, then again in 2012/13, for an exhibition and concert series dedicated to Lam’s collection of fine Italian stringed instruments and French bows.

If you are thinking of spending your family fortune on this violin or just want to learn more about it, here is the link.

You might also like:

* * *

Enjoying Violinist.com? Click here to sign up for our free, bi-weekly email newsletter. And if you've already signed up, please invite your friends! Thank you.


February 17, 2023 at 01:09 PM · Hope it doesnt go much over 12 million thats my limit;)

February 17, 2023 at 01:24 PM · The two women in the video produce quite different vibrato.

February 17, 2023 at 04:28 PM · My former teacher Steven Staryk owned this violin for a while and then sold it.I' ve never asked him why.

February 17, 2023 at 10:23 PM · Peter Carter, perhaps he needed his house rewiring.

February 18, 2023 at 01:48 PM · Good one Ron! I remember Staryk owned the Muntz Strad but sold it because it was too hard to play.He bought a Strad and a del Gesu from the proceeds.I can' t imagine being at this mega level of wheeling and dealing.I remember asking his opinion of a Cuypers violin I was about to purchase.He was( and still is)a gentleman and gave a great tutorial on violin purchasing.I walked away with my dignity intact.

February 18, 2023 at 07:06 PM · I have heard many times that the best instruments are the hardest to play.

This one will probably end up in a bank vault, bit sad.

February 20, 2023 at 04:52 PM · What an interesting contrast in the sound generated by the two players on this same outstanding fiddle. Of course they are playing in different spaces with different recording systems but the instrument seems to suit Lisa far better, she gets the full power out. Heart melting....

February 20, 2023 at 10:23 PM · I've had the honour of playing three concerts with soloists using the Heath Guarneri.I have never heard or felt tone that luscious and powerful from any instrument.Its part of Canada Council's stringbank.The closest to the Heath was the Milanollo Strad that Corey Corvosek used with us about ten years ago.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Violinist.com Shopping Guide
Violinist.com Shopping Guide

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Anne Cole Violin Maker
Anne Cole Violin Maker

Miroirs CA Classical Music Journal
Miroirs CA Classical Music Journal

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Classic Violin Olympus

Coltman Chamber Music Competition

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Jargar Strings



Violin Lab



Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine