LONDON--A wooden violin played by band leader Wallace Hartley on the ill-fated Titanic sold at auction for $1.4 million (U.S.), setting the record for the largest price received at auction for a single Titanic item.
According to Henry Aldridge and Son, an auction house specializing in Titanic memorabilia, the violin was found in a leather bag strapped to Hartley's body just 10 days after the Titanic sank.
Given to Hartley by his fiance Maria Robinson, the violin is believed to be German in style and a copy of famous luthier Giovan Paolo Maggini - who worked in spruce and maple. The auction house describes the instrument as having a "double purfled back and front, two piece back of medium curl descending from the joint," and "the original varnish, now largely absent, is of a dark, brown color with a later golden brown covering." Despite being salvaged days after the Titanic sank, the violin is unplayable and has several large cracks on its body.
In the well-known story made famous in books and movies, Harley and his band, second-class passengers, went down with the ship but continued playing until the end in an effort to calm the remaining passengers.
The wood violin was later returned to Robinson, and it passed through several hands over the years after her death. When the current owner decided to put the instrument up for auction, a number of tests, including forensics and a CT scan, were run to ensure its authenticity.
The violin, which had been on display at two Titanic museums in America, with more than 300,000 visitors, had originally been expected to sell for nearly $500,000. Published reports from the BBC describe the bidding as "fierce" between two telephone bidders as the price jumped to a final bid of $1,454,400 (U.S.).