Published: June 22, 2004
Skinner’s recent auction of fine musical instruments was its largest to date, and offered one of the finest selections ever at the gallery.
World record prices were achieved for American guitars by John D’Angelico and James D’Aquisto, a Spanish guitar by Ignacio Fleta, several modern Italian violins and a rare American keyed bugle by E.G. Wright of Boston.
The 12-keyed presentation bugle was the object of intense speculation by museums, historical societies and aficionados of Civil War era musical instruments. One of approximately 13 surviving presentation instruments designed for virtuosi by E.G. Wright, this keyed bugle was presented as a gift in appreciation to Daniel H. Chandler, founder and director of Chandler’s Band of Portland, Maine, which had been organized in 1833 and is now believed to be the second oldest professional performing band in continuous service in the United States.
Under Chandler’s leadership this band developed into one of the finest performing groups of its kind. In 1861, it entered into the service of the Union Army until the end of the Civil War, performing at Harper’s Ferry, and furnishing music for the 1st, 10th, 25th and 29th Maine regiments.
World record prices also were realized for several important modern Italian stringed instrument makers: a splendid violoncello by Gaetano Gadda of Mantua fetched $45,825, more than doubling the previous world record. With beautiful figured wood carved into a strong, full arch on its top and back, it was underbid by several dealers on its rarity and pedigree alone. The instrument was bought for its sound quality and acoustic projection by a recent graduate of New England Conservatory.
A first rate violin by Stefano Scarampella, also of Mantua, brought a world record price of $76,375. Scarampella made instruments in a freely carved rustic style that appeared old when they were just finished, and that were held in such high esteem that he was the first modern Italian maker to be copied during his lifetime. This violin, made circa 1910, is in superb condition, with nary a crack in its top or back.
“Scarampella instruments have been among the most sought-after and highest appreciating instruments in the last 20 years, and also among the most often faked. He had a certain genius quality to his work, a very free, unhampered and rugged style. A well-conserved example like this one comes along very seldom,” noted department director David Bonsey.
A US auction record of $99,500 was paid for a decorated violin in near-mint condition by French maker Jean Baptiste Vuillaume, dated 1867 and inlaid with fleur-de-lis, tendril patterns and semiprecious jewels.
Fretted instruments were highlighted by fine examples of American archtop guitars, ukuleles and folk guitars. A Martin soprano ukulele whose body of highly flamed Hawaiian Koa wood graced the catalog cover, brought $5,581, while its cover counterpart, a 1957 Excel jazz guitar by John D’Angelico, brought an auction record $32,900.
A 1963 classical guitar of Ignacio Fleta of Barcelona, the favorite of maker master guitarist John Williams and others, brought $30,550; and a Model New Yorker by James D’Aquisto garnered $22,325.
Prices reported include buyer’s premium.
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