Giovanni Battista Guadagnini (1711-1786) is regarded as the most eminent luthier after the great Antonio Stradivari and Joseph Guarneri del Gesù in the violin making history of Italy. This violin named ‘ex Segelman, Suk’ was made by Guadagnini in Milan in 1751. With superb craftsmanship and brilliant playing quality, it is a highly representative piece in his artistic career.
The world’s leading violin expert Peter Biddulph commented, ‘It is a very noble example from the Milan period in a really excellent state of preservation. I love the choice of quarter cut maple for the back; it’s so striking and elegant at the same time. It is one of the most beautifully made and wonderfully preserved Guadagnini violins that I’ve seen in my life, and it is an extremely rare and precious piece among the extant works of this Italian master luthier.’
This violin has been treasured and well preserved by various top collectors and musicians. According to records, it was first discovered and certified in 1925 by Alfred Ebsworth Hill (1862-1940), Britain’s most authoritative violin expert of all time. In 1928, the renowned American violinist and conductor Nathan Abas (1896-1980) bought this violin from the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company. In 1941, this violin was transferred to the famous collector Fred Hartley. By 1948, it was sold through W.E. Hill & Sons to a legendary violin collector: Gerald Segelman (1899-1992), alias Mr Black.
In the 1990s, this violin was in the hand of the great Czech violinist Josef Suk (1929-2011) and was played by the maestro in solo concerts such as the one at the Suntory Hall, Tokyo on Nov. 20, 1992, in which he performed his great grandfather Antonín Dvořák’s ‘Four Romantic Pieces for Violin and Piano’ (Op. 75) with pianist Rudolf Firkusny. Furthermore, a number of photographs of Josef Suk taken at various times also show him holding or playing this 1751 Guadagnini.
Josef Suk with the 1751 Guadagnini violin
In 1999, this violin was collected by the Maurice family. By the end of 2019, its owner was Alexandre Maurice. Mr. Maurice said to Mr. Yu, ‘I’m very glad that this violin could be added to the collection of your foundation, because I know that many distinguished performers in China are longing for a top instrument like this. Through your foundation, the artistic careers of the musicians could better supported.’