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Stradivari Cello, Cremona 1689 "Archinto"

One of the finest early cellos by the great master.

The “Archinto” cello by Antonio Stradivari has long been considered one of the greatest examples of the maker’s work and certainly one of the most handsome. It is the twin to the “Medici” cello of 1690, which is undeniably the finest pre-1700 Stradivari cello in existence.

It is generally believed that Stradivari made the cello for the Cardinal, and later Archbishop of Milan, Giuseppe Archinto. What is certain, is that around 1850 it was in the possession of a descendant of the cardinal, Count Giuseppe Archinto (1783-1861) and was part of a quartet of Stradivari instruments which included the famous 1696 viola and violins made in 1696 and 1721. Following the death of the count, the cello was purchased in the early 1860s by the collector Gustavo Adolfo Noseda. In around 1865 he passed it on to the French maker and dealer Jean Baptiste Vuillaume, who had already purchased the other instruments from Archinto’s estate. Vuillaume sold the cello shortly afterwards to Charles Wilmotte in Antwerp, who in turn sold it to the Parisian amateur cellist and collector Abel Bonjour. Bonjour loaned the cello to the 1885 South Kensington Exhibition, and following his death, it was sold at auction at the Hôtel Drouot in Paris on February 5, 1887.

The respected London dealer Alfred Hill was the under-bidder at the sale, and the cello was bought by the renowned French cellist Jules Delsart for 19,000 French francs. Delsart taught at the Paris conservatory and is perhaps best known for his transcriptions for cello which include the violin sonata of César Franck. He retained possession of the “Archinto” until his death in 1900. His widow sold the cello in 1907 to a consortium of dealers for 30,000 French francs. Caressa sold it that same year with the Parisian firm of Silvestre & Maucotel to an amateur from Marseilles, a Monsieur Gailhard.

In 1915 Maucotel resold the cello in Paris for 80,000 francs to Lucian Sharpe, whose father had founded Brown & Sharpe, one of the most important American machine-tool companies. Sharpe left the cello with W.E. Hill & Sons in London just before his death in 1919. Hills looked after the cello for some time and around this period published what is now a very rare monograph on the cello. After completing a restoration and resolving some legal issues the “Archinto” was brought to Boston for safe-keeping. And so began the cello’s United States chapter.

Around 1932 the “Archinto” was bought for around $20,000 by the wealthy manufacturer Russell B. Kingman of Orange, New Jersey. Kingman was an avid collector and an accomplished amateur cellist who made recordings, played in the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and was its president from 1928 to 1936. Clearly proud of his acquisition, Kingman took the “Archinto” to every major
dealer of the day to certify this extraordinary instrument.

In 1937 the “Archinto” was sold through Rudolph Wurlitzer to John Nicholas Brown a philanthropist of Providence, Rhode Island for $35,000. Brown was a good amateur cellist and a trustee of the Boston Symphony. With his friend Serge Koussevitzky, he commissioned Samuel Barber to write a cello concerto for the cellist Raya Garbousova. The work was completed in November 1945 and premiered in April the following year with the Boston Symphony and Garbousova performing on the “Archinto” Stradivari.

The “Archinto” was sold by Rembert Wurlitzer in July 1960 to Walter Lagemann of Rowayton, Connecticut who owned it until 1974 when he donated it to the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California. In 1976 the cello was purchased by the Richard D. Colburn a businessman and generous patron of music. In 2007 the Colburn Foundation sold the “Archinto” to its current owner, a private collector in Texas.

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