A violin owned by the musician Wallace Hartley, who played as the Titanic sank in 1912, has sold at auction for $1.78 million, more than three times the anticipated price.
The violin sold at Henry Aldridge and Son, the British auction house that specializes in Titanic-related memorabilia, on Saturday. It was expected that the historic artifact would garner between $322,977 and $484,466.
Henry Aldridge and Son said the instrument was discovered in 2006, and was played by second-class passenger Wallace Hartley. He was one of the hundreds who perished on that tragic night of April 14, 1912. According to Irish Weather Online's research 110 Irish people lost their lives on the Titanic while 54 survived.
It is believed that Hartley was one of those musicians who played as the Titanic sank. Famously these musicians were depicted in the 1997 James Cameron movie “Titanic” playing “Nearer, My God, to Thee”.
British violinist Wallace Hartley played the instrument during Titanic’s final hours when the band famously continued playing to calm passengers. A silver plaque on the back of the violin indicates that Hartley received the instrument from Miss Maria Robinson in 1910 to mark their engagement. The violin was found strapped to his body after the Titanic sank. His bag and seven water stained sheets of music were found with his body after the disaster and were also sold at auction.
The violin and its story was largely forgotten until an amateur violinist received the instrument as a gift from her music teacher in the early 1940s. The amateur’s son contacted the auctioneers in 2006. It then took seven years to confirm the violin’s authenticity, a process which included forensic examinations and a hospital CT scan.
After the Titanic sank, Miss Robinson had custody of the violin, which was given to the Salvation Army following her death in 1939. The violin then passed to the band’s music teacher, who gave the violin to her student Evelyn in the early 1940s in the hope that Evelyn's brother would be able to restore the instrument to playable condition so his sister could practice on it. Evelyn’s son, who remains anonymous, then placed the violin up for auction.
Hartley was the bandleader on Titanic’s maiden voyage in 1912. After she struck an iceberg, Hartley and seven band members moved on deck and played to calm passengers’ nerves while boarding lifeboats.
Here’s the famous scene from the movie “Titanic”:
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