Strad Copy Sets Sotheby’s Record
By Kate Taylor, The Globe and Mail, Nov. 5, 1993
A copy of a Stradivarius created by a Canadian violinmaker and his U.S. business partner set an auction record in London, England, this week for a violin made by a living artisan.
The violin made by Joseph Curtin and Gregg Alf sold for £22,000 (about $42,460 Cdn.), at an auction held Tuesday by Sotheby’s. It is a copy, right down to every scratch and shading of varnish, of an instrument known as the Booth Stradivari, made by the famous Italian violinmaker Stradivarius in 1716. The copy was created by Curtin, a Toronto native, and Alf, an American, in their Ann Arbor, Mich., workshop in 1990, and bought by U.S. violinist Elmar Oliveira shortly thereafter. The soloist, who had used it on concert tours and for recording a CD with the London Philharmonic, had put it up for sale because he now tourS with another Curtin and Alf replica. This more recent instrument is a copy of a Guarneri del Gesu violin of 1726, known as the Lady Stretton, which Oliveira also owns and is valued in the millions.
“It was very gratifying that it went up so high, especially when a player bought it, not a collector,” Curtin said in a telephone interview yesterday. “It shows it wasn’t just being bought for its history but as a good concert violin. (The violin was purchased by the young Maltese soloist, Carmine Lauri.)
Curtin and Alf charge about $15,500 (U.S.) for a regular violin and $25,000 to reproduce a historical instrument, which they do from plaster casts. The pair usually work separately on instruments, but the Oliveira violin was a collaborative effort.
Curtin says science is gradually revealing the secrets of the great historical violinmakers like Stradivarius, allowing contemporary instrument makers to copy them. Contemporary violins are also becoming more popular as the limited supply of historical ones drives prices through the roof. Curtin and Alf, who have also made instruments for Yehudi Menuhin and Ruggiero Ricci, can make a living solely through their own work without selling or repairing instruments other people Created, an arrangement that would not have been possible a few years ago.