A violin believed to have belonged to Titanic bandmaster Wallace Hartley, and played on the ship before it sank, was sold at auction for $1.45 million. The Titanic violin was discovered in 2006 and the auctioneers are confident of its authenticity, citing numerous tests and historic reports.
The Titanic violin was sold at auction, by Henry Aldridge and Son, on Saturday, Oct. 19, reports the Associated Press. The winning bidder was not identified. The violin was part of a “Titanic and Transport Memorabilia Sale” that includes artifacts that were aboard the doomed vessel as well as items aboard other ships, including the R.M.S. Lusitania.
The Titanic memorabilia that was part of the auction included rope used during George Tulloch’s 1998 Titanic expedition, newspapers and memoriam plaques, photos and cards. The Wallace Hartley archive included the violin, the suitcase that contained the instrument as well as sheet music that was found in a portfolio with the violin.
Hartley and his band continued playing while the Titanic was sinking and was filling up with water. The last song played aboard the vessel was the hymn, “Nearer, My God, To Thee.”
According to the auctioneers, the Titanic violin was a gift from Hartley’s fiancée, Maria Robinson, and features the engraving, “For Wallace on the occasion of our engagement from Maria.” Robinson died in 1939. It was believed that Hartley strapped a suitcase, containing the violin, to his body but the bag was not present when his remains were returned to his family. Robinson did write that the violin was recovered and given to her in 1912 and the owner claims he received the violin upon her death in 1939.
The Titanic violin underwent seven years of testing from government scientists and researchers at Oxford University prior to the auction. The testing was concluded earlier this year, confirming the violin's authenticity. The $1.45 million paid is a new record for Titanic memorabilia, beating the 220,000 pounds paid for a set of blueprints in 2011, reports BBC.
The item is described as “one of the most iconic collectables of the 20th century and bears testimony to the courage and spirit of the Bandsman onboard the Titanic who played until the end on that fateful night.”