A violin by Antonio Stradivari

Cremona, 1717

labelled Antonius Stradiuarius Cremonensis Faciebat Anno 1717 AS

length of back 35.4cm.

The first recorded owner of the 1717 ‘ex-Piatti’ was John Betts, one of the most important and influential violin makers in England in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Betts worked closely with Vincenzo Panormo and together they transitioned from the Stainer- and Amati-modelled work that Betts himself specialised in, towards fine Stradivari copies.

The violin passed from Betts to Sir Rowland Watkin Wynn and, from him, to George Ashley. In 1836 the violin was bought by Arthur Betts I, son of John Betts and another important english violin and bow maker. From Arthur it passed to Simon Andrew Forster, the last violin maker of the Forster family, who made Amatise model instruments.

The Piatti photographed in Violin Iconography of Antonio Stradivari by Herbert Goodkind
The Piatti photographed in Violin Iconography of Antonio Stradivari by Herbert Goodkind
Carlo Alfredo Piatti

Carlo Alfredo Piatti, from whom the violin received its name, bought the instrument from Forster in 1862. Piatti began playing the violin at a very young age but quickly moved to the cello and was sent to his Uncle aged 5 for tuition. It is thought that he debuted in his local theatre audience aged 7 for a mere 10 Francs, of which his uncle kept half. When he was 10, Piatti applied for a scholarship to the Milan conservatoire and was granted admittance with a 5 year scholarship. In 1837 he gave his solo debut at the conservatoire, playing his own concerto, and was given his cello as a prize.

A few years later, Piatti fell ill and was forced to sell his cello to cover the costs of his treatment, but he travelled to Paris, borrowed an amateur’s cello, and gave a concert which impressed Liszt to such a degree that he gifted Piatti an Amati cello. In the same year, 1844, he debuted in London at the same concert as Joseph Joachim’s London debut and was praised by critics for his extraordinary excellence. In 1867 Piatti bought a Stradivari cello which is also named after him. A marble bust of Piatti, attributed to “Giacomo Manzoni of Bergamo”, was gifted to the Royal Academy of Music by Piatti’s daughter in 1909.

John Pawle bought the violin from Piatti in 1868 and it passed to Gabriele Wietrowitz in 1892. Wietrowitz was an Austrian concert violinist and academic who studied under Joseph Joachim Akademische Hochschule für Musik in Berlin. She toured Europe and debuted in London in 1892, where she was received very well. She became the first violinist of the string quartet of Emily Shinner in 1897.

In 1920 the ‘ex-Piatti’ was sold by Nathan E. Posner of Brooklyn, New York to Dr. Eugenio Sturchio, who’s collection included no fewer than 7 Strads, as well as a Pietro Guarneri and a Ferdinando Gagliano. John W. Coggeshall bought the violin in 1923 and sold it once again through Nathan E. Posner to Alfred O. Corbin, a New York banker, for $50,000. Corbin sold it through Nathan E. Posner for a third and final time in 1930 to the Rudolph Wurlitzer Co., from whom it was bought by Frank Miles Yount, a collector of both violins and horses.

The ‘ex-Piatti’ was sold by Lyon & Healy in 1949, many years after Yount’s death in 1933, to C. Michael Paul, an oilman who made the news in New York after giving $1 million for a recital hall at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in 1965. Raymonde I. Paul bought the violin through Sotheby’s in their March 1986 sale for $155,000 before it was sold to its current owner in 2015.

The Piatti photographed in How Many Strads by E. N. Doring

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