Rare Stradivari viola fails to sell in sealed-bid auction

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[June 26, 2014]  NEW YORK (Reuters) - A rare Stradivari viola, considered to be one of the finest musical instruments in the world, failed to sell in a sealed bid auction with a minimum bid of $45 million, Sotheby's said on Wednesday.

The "Macdonald" viola, which was made by the famous Italian artisan Antonio Stradivari in 1719, is one of only two still privately owned, and was last on the market 50 years ago.

"At this time, no sale has taken place," said a spokesman for Sotheby's.

If the viola had reached the minimum bid, it would have been the most world's most expensive instrument. The current world record auction price for a musical instrument is $15.9 million, which was achieved in an online auction in June 2011 for the "Lady Blunt" Stradivari violin made in 1721.

Tim Ingles, director of the London-based fine instruments auction house Ingles & Hayday which conducted the sale with Sotheby's, said the viola is so rare because so few of them were made.

"A Stradivari viola has always been, I suppose, the Holy Grail for a collector of musical instruments," he said in an interview ahead of the sale.

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The "Macdonald" is considered to be the finest of all the Stradivari violas, he added. It was made between 1700-20, which is considered the artisan's golden period.

The instrument was being sold by the family of Peter Schidlof, of the famed Amadeus Quartet, who bought it in 1964. It is called the "Macdonald" because it was purchased in the 1820s by Godfrey Bosville, the 3rd Baron Macdonald.

(Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and G Crosse)

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