BOSTON, MASS. – Skinner, Inc’s recent auction of fine musical instruments resulted in more than 93 percent of lots sold, with a buy-in rate of less than seven percent.
A world record was set for the maker Gennaro Gagliano of Naples whose violin, made in 1730, brought $139,100. In very fine condition, it sported plenty of well-preserved original golden red varnish. Gennaro is considered by many to have been the finest maker in this large family, and this is one on his finest known examples.
While its remarkable design owes much to Stradivari, who at the time, was still very much alive and producing instruments in Cremona hundreds of miles away, it shows the subtle variation in arching and cut of the scroll that would mark the Neapolitan traits that continued through successive generations of the Gagliano family.
A world record was also set for the Venetian maker Michele Deconet, this violin dated 1759, which garnered $88,125. There have been very few good instruments available by Deconet at auction in recent years, and this was exceptional for its fine condition and deeply flamed one-piece back.
Deconet worked at the end of Venice’s Golden Period, and was the city’s most prolific maker, influenced or possibly taught by Domenico Montagnana. This example was restored and certified by Simone Sacconi.
Also reaching a record price ($11,750) was a very fine French violin by Guillaume Gand of Versailles, brother of the better-known Charles Francois Gand. Both were influenced by Nicolas Lupot of Paris and worked in his very clean and precise manner after Stradivari.
World record prices for cellos were realized for two modern Italian makers, Riccardo Antoniazzi of Milan ($35,250) and Gaetano Pareschi of Ferrara ($12,925). The Pareschi cello was quite fresh to the market, having been discovered in Germany. Both makers have not been represented at auction in many years.
A good showing in the market was made by two violin bows from French maker Eugene Sartory, one a late period bow of flamed pernambuco wood that brought $9,987, and an earlier bow made for the 1908 London Exposition, which brought $10,575.
No less exciting was the bidding for the second Gibson F-5 mandolin signed by Lloyd Loar to be offered at Skinner, which reached a new world record of $88,125. Renowned for their impeccable design and workmanship, they are also considered to be the pinnacle in sound for bluegrass musicians. This near-mint example from 1923 was recently discovered in a New Jersey home and had been used throughout the 1930s and 40s in Klezmer bands and musical groups of the Worker’s Alliance in New York City.
Three vintage Gibson L-5 guitars were also featured, two sunburst-finished guitars from 1935 and 1936 brought $6,462 and $4,406, respectively, and a 1954 cutaway, natural finish L-5 brought $9,400. Finally, a pristine Kamaka “Pineapple” ukulele made in Honolulu in 1930, in remarkable condition with fancy inlaid marquetry and pristine labels, brought a new record auction price of $1,645.
David Bonsey, director of fine musical instruments at Skinner noted that sales at Skinner have been very strong for the last year especially, as record low interest rates make it easier to finance instrument purchases.
This, together with the poor performance of the stock market this year makes fine musical instruments an even better investment than ever. Bonsey noted in a recent New York Times Personal Business column (Sunday, September 15) that the value of fine violins has appreciated at an average ten percent annually as investments for the last four decades.