Titanic violin fetch 900,000 pound record price

Last Updated 04 May 2018, 12:03 IST

A battered, seawater-damaged violin, that was apparently played to calm passengers on the Titanic as the giant liner sank in 1912 sold for 900,000 pounds (USD 1,454,400) at an auction today, a record amount ever for a piece of Titanic memorabilia.

Titanic's band leader Wallace Hartley famously 'played on' the violin as the ship sank in the North Atlantic in 1912 killing 1,517 people, a scene later immortalised by James Cameron's multiple Oscar winning movie, "Titanic".

All the musicians drowned in the disaster, including Hartley. His body was plucked from the icy waters several days later, with the large leather case in which he carried his violin still strapped to him.

Other items up for sale included his sheet music and the bag he kept it in.

UK auction house Henry Aldridge and Son has spent over six years and many thousands of pounds researching and investigating the instrument's authenticity. Police forensic evidence, audio archive material, Oxford University research and a CT scan have all been used to prove it is the real deal.

Auctioneer Alan Aldridge said the violin was the "rarest and most iconic" piece of Titanic memorabilia.

"The band playing on was an incredibly selfless act. William Hartley is an iconic individual. That is represented in the instrument," said Andrew.

Hartley has become part of the ship's legend after leading his fellow musicians in playing as the vessel sank, most famously the hymn Nearer My God To Thee.

The violin underwent a CT scan to check its composition and any damage. The auctioneers declared its authenticity in March.

These included forensic science experts who said the wood still contained salt deposits from the sea water.

Some people still doubt whether the violin is the genuine article and believe it could not have survived being submerged in the sea.

But it is claimed the violin survived in a leather case strapped to Harley's body who was found wearing his cork and linen lifejacket.

A diary entry by his fiancee, Maria Robinson, said it was saved from the water and returned to her.

Following her death in 1939, the violin was given to her local Salvation Army citadel and was later passed on to the current anonymous owner's mother in the early 1940s.

The auction house said it had attracted interest from collectors all over the world and added that more than 315,000 people viewed it during a three-month exhibition in the United States. It had a guide price of 300,000 pounds.

The most money previously paid for a piece of Titanic memorabilia is thought to have been a plan of the ship - used in the 1912 inquiry into the sinking - which was bought by a private collector at auction for 220,000 pounds in 2011.

(Published 19 October 2013, 16:32 IST)

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