Sotheby's to auction $45 million Stradivarius viola

26 March 2014, 09:42 | Updated: 2 April 2020, 16:04

Auction house Sotheby's will be selling what's been described as the world's finest viola - a Stradivarius known as The Macdonald - in a sealed-bid auction.

The Macdonald viola is expected to sell for an amount in excess of $45 million (US dollars).

Though Stradivarius instruments are rare in the extreme, violas are without doubt the rarest. There are only ten known surviving models in existence, making this auction a landmark for instrument collectors.

Vice Chairman of Sotheby's David Redden commented: "Every field is defined by one outstanding masterpiece which casts its shadow not only on its own domain but far beyond. The instruments of Stradivari are in a class of their own among the pinnacles of human craftsmanship and the ‘Macdonald’ Viola stands at the unquestioned summit."

Violist David Aaron Carpenter (pictured) will be playing the instrument at Sotheby's in Paris and New York in the run-up to the auction. You can see him in action on the Macdonald below:

Made in 1719, the Macdonald is made of alpine spruce on the front panel and a single piece of maple for the back. The original varnish applied by Stradivarius himself is almost completely intact.

Soloist Carpenter commented: "This viola represents the pinnacle of human achievement in instrument-making, and it is in incredibly good condition. Almost as though you ordered a viola from Stradivarius and 300 years later he handed it you."