In 2008, Nippon Music paid more than $10 million for a 1721 violin built by Antonio Stradivari in a private sale. The instrument, named "Lady Blunt" for an early owner, the English aristocrat -- and granddaughter of Lord Byron -- Lady Anne Blunt, is one of 600 Stradivari instruments existing today, according to the Wall Street Journal. In the words of veteran violin dealer Peter Biddulph, it is "the world's best-preserved Stradivari violin."
Now Nippon Music, which owns 19 Stradivari violins, most of which it loans to musicians, is auctioning off the Lady Blunt on June 20, with all proceeds benefiting victims of Japan's earthquake and tsunami.
Victims of the tsunami and earthquake "have lost the most important thing in their life," said Nippon Music Foundation president Kazuko Shiomi. "We felt that if we are to do something, we should let go of the most important item, and that is the Lady Blunt."
The current auction record for a violin is $3.6 million for a Stradivari sold last year at Tarisio, an online house that's also running the Lady Blunt sale. The violin is currently locked in a sprinkler-free fireproof vault in Tarisio's offices in New York, and will tour roughly eight cities internationally before the sale.