The instrument, known as Lady Blunt after the woman who owned it for 30 years, fetched £9.8 million at the Tarisio auction in London, of which all the proceeds will be donated for disaster relief in Japan.
Made by the Italian violin-maker in 1721, the instrument was sold by the Nippon Music Foundation to an unnamed bidder.
The violin has created headlines every time it has gone up for auction, selling for a then-record £84,000 at auction in 1971. However, this sale saw the instrument reach over four times the previous auction record for a Stradivari violin.
It has been in possession of collectors for most of its life, but was given the nickname Lady Blunt after Lord Byron’s granddaughter, Anne, a talented violinist, owned it.
Today, it bears its original neck, bassbar and fingerboard, and comes in a presentation case from W.E. Hill & Sons, a one-time owner.
Kazuko Shiomi, president of the Nippon Music Foundation, commented on the sale: “While this violin was very important to our collection, the needs of our fellow Japanese people after the March 11 tragedy have proven that we all need to help, in any way we can. The donation will be put to immediate use on the ground in Japan.”
It is thought that there are around 600 Stradivarius violins that remain in existence, including the Messiah, which went on display earlier this month alongside the Lady Blunt at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
According to Tarisio, the last time the violins were together was in the 1930s.
Jason Price, director of the auction house, said: “Fine instruments appreciate in value just like fine works of art, and the Lady Blunt is the most significant violin that a collector can buy.”
The sale comes after an annotated score of the Third Symphony by Mahler exceeded its auction guide price, selling for £163,250 by an anonymous bidder at Sotheby’s last week.