Stradivarius fetches record $16 million in charity sale

A Stradivarius violin known as "The Penny" is displayed at Christie's auction house in New York March 27, 2008. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A rare Stradivarius violin that once belonged to the granddaughter of English poet Lord Byron sold for a record 9.8 million pounds ($15.9 million) at auction on Monday in a charity sale for Japanese disaster relief.

The 1721 violin was bought by an anonymous bidder for around four times the previous auction record for a Stradivari violin, according to Tarisio, the online auction house for fine instruments.

Proceeds from the sale will go to aid Japan after the recent natural disasters through the Nippon Foundation’s Northeastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund.

The “Lady Blunt” was offered for sale by The Nippon Music Foundation, owners of some of the world’s finest Stradivari and Guarneri instruments.

“While this violin was very important to our collection, the needs of our fellow Japanese people after the March 11 tragedy have proven that we all need to help, in any way we can,” the foundation’s president Kazuko Shiomi said in a statement.

“The donation will be put to immediate use on the ground in Japan.”

Tarisio said interest among bidders was “massive.” The instrument was owned for 30 years by Lady Anne Blunt, Byron’s granddaughter.

It is one of around 600 violins, violas and cellos by the famed Italian maker Antonio Stradivari still in existence, and among the finest examples.

The last time it was sold publicly was in 1971, when it fetched a then-record 84,000 pounds at Sotheby’s.

Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte