Davidoff-Morini Stradivarius Violin
1644 – 1737
Current Value: $8 million
Value at time of Theft: $4 million
Date of Theft: 18 October 1995
Publicly announced reward: $100,000
It was during the 16th century that the violin appeared in its current standard form. Andrea Amati (1511-1580) added a fourth string and helped to standardize the size and shapes of the viola, cello and violin. Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) began making violins after his parents sent him to apprentice for Nicolo Amati, (Andrea Amati’s grandson). Stradivari was 12 years old.
At the beginning of his career, in the 1680s, Stradivari moved away from Amati’s approach and began experimenting with his own style of sound — hole shapes, softer varnish, wider purfling, which is the inlaid border near the edges of the violin’s back and front, and a stronger tone.
In the 1690s, there was a distinct change in style. He began creating his “Long Strads” and using a darker, richer varnish. He continued to make violins in this style until 1698, when he arrived at the style he would use for the rest of his life. It was a shortened instrument and now referred to as the “grand pattern”. From 1700 through the 1720s, was Stradivarius’ golden period. The instruments made during those years are considered to be his greatest works. The Davidoff-Morini Stradivarius was made during this period in 1727.
Over 600 of his instruments have survived and most of them have been modernized to accommodate the changing demands of string instruments. For example: until recently, chin rests were not used on violins making the change in hand movement audible. Most antique and collectable violins that are still being played have this minor modernization.
Because Stradivarius’ violins have become so highly sought after, their prices have steadily increased. Most recently, the 1721 violin named “Lady Blunt” was bought at a charity auction on 21 June 2011 for over $15 million, which was more than four times the previous auction record for a Stradivari violin.
The Davidoff-Morini Stradivarius Violin is now worth over 8 million dollars. The violin has had only three owners. The first owner gave the violin the name General Davidoff, but there is no information on the identity of General Davidoff. The next owner was the workshop of Silvestre & Maucotel (Paris). In 1924, the instrument was purchased for Erica Morini by her father.
Erica Morini, born in 1904, was a child prodigy, who made her musical debut in 1916 at the age of 12. She retired in 1976 after a lifetime of phenomenal concert reviews and multiple awards.
In October of 1995, Erika died of heart failure. She had been in New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital and was unaware that a few days earlier her Stradivarius violin along with paintings, letters, and her notes had been stolen from her apartment. Her close friend and confidant Erica Bradford discovered the theft. Since the detection of the robbery there has been no information about the violin. There is some speculation that because Erika’s fingering notes were stolen the thief might have been a violinist, or it was stolen to order for a violinist.