Rare Stradivarius sells for near-record $15.3 million

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A rare Stradivarius violin that belonged to a Russian-American virtuoso and was used in the "Wizard of Oz" soundtrack sold at auction in New York Thursday for $15.3 million, just below the record for such an instrument, according to auction house Tarisio.

The violin, made in 1714 by master craftsman Antonio Stradivari, belonged to virtuoso Toscha Seidel, who not only used it on the score for the 1939 Hollywood classic, but also no doubt while teaching his famous student Albert Einstein.

"This violin has set side by side with the great mathematician scientist as they played quartets in Albert's home in Princeton, New Jersey," said Jason Price, founder of Tarisio, which specializes in stringed instruments.

Seidel, who immigrated to the United States in the 1930s, and Einstein, who fled the Nazi regime in Europe, participated in a New York concert in 1933 in support of fleeing German Jewish scientists.

Of the thousands of instruments made by Stradivari, there are still around 600 known today.

"Of those, many are in museums, many are in foundations and are in situations where they won't be sold," Price said.

"There's a select few which are known as the Golden Period examples, which is approximately between 1710 and 1720," he said.

"And these, for the most part, are those which are most desired and most highly valued."

The violin had previously belonged to the Munetsugu collection in Japan. Tarisio did not reveal who the buyer was.

The record for a Stradivarius at auction was set in 2011, when a violin baptized "Lady Blunt," said to have belonged to Lady Anne Blunt, granddaughter of the poet Lord Byron, was sold for $15.9 in London.

In 2014, another Stradivarius whose auction price was set at a minimum of $45 million did not sell.

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