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Heiress's Stradivarius remains unsold at Christie’s auction house

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Christie's announced earlier today that the "Kreutzer" Stradivarius violin, which had been found in a butler pantry in the late heiress Huguette Clark's Manhattan apartment, remains unsold after its June 18 auction. None of the offers for the instrument, which is valued at up to $10 million, reached the "reserve price" agreed upon between the sellers and the auction house.

Made in 1731 by Antonio Stradivari, the "Kreutzer" earned its name from the French violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer who owned and played the instrument from about 1795 until his death in 1831. "It would be the one violin that Kreutzer held most special to him," a Christie's spokesman explained.

The instrument remained in the hands of musicians up until 1920, when the American copper magnate William Andrews Clark and his wife Catherine purchased it as a present for their then-teenaged daughter, Huguette. According to Christie's head musical instrument specialist Kerry Keane, William sent Huguette a telegram from Paris in 1920 that said her Catherine had just bought her, “the most fabulous violin in the world.” Huguette kept the violin for the next 90 years.

The reclusive heiress had three apartments on New York's Fifth Avenue, a mansion in Connecticut, and a house in California, each of which were stuffed with millions of dollars of treasures from her family's collection of over 400 pieces. Huguette chose to live her last 20 years in a simply furnished hospital room, even though she was perfectly healthy.

After Huguette passed away at the age of 104, her possessions were gathered to be auctioned off at Christie's. The Fifth Avenue apartment in which the violin was found was like a time capsule, according Christie auctioneer Andrew McVinish, because no one but Huguette's staff had been inside the 26 bedrooms or five art galleries in years. Other items which were found and sold included a rare pink 9-carat diamond that brought in $21 million and a Monet painting of water lilies that earned $24 million.

When the violin is eventually sold, the funds will go towards the final settlement of the Clark estate. Any remaining money will be given to the Santa Barbara Bellosguardo Art Foundation.

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