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Wednesday 20 August 2014

The poor Irish emigrant, the American dream and the €12m Stradivarius violin

DICK BARTON

Published 15/06/2014 | 02:30

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Heiress Huguette Clark playing the Stradivarius
Huguette Clark aged 11 with her father William A Clark

A RARE and highly prized 280-year-old violin bought by wealthy descendants of an Irishman who emigrated to the US in search of his fortune in the late 18th Century is set to fetch up to €12m at auction.

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The Stradivarius violin, known as The Kreutzer as it was once owned by the great French violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer, was bought by William Andrews Clark – who went on to become one of the 50 richest Americans of all time – as a present for his daughter Huguette in France in 1921.

In a telegram to Huguette from Paris, Mr Clark and his wife Annam wrote: "Darling ... bought you the most wonderful violin in the world."

Their assessment appears to have passed the test of time: the Stradivarius is expected to sell for between €7m and €12m at a special sealed-bid auction at Christie's at the Rockefeller Plaza in New York this month.

Bidding for the violin began on June 6 and continued until Wednesday, June 12.

The violin was made in Cremona, Italy, by Antonio Stradivari around 1731. Stradivari's 600 surviving violins are highly sought after by collectors, giving them multimillion-dollar price tags. This particular one was more recently owned by Huguette Marcelle Clark for 90 years, from 1921 until her death in 2011 at the age of 104.

Huguette, who was also one of America's richest women, was the great, great grand-daughter of John Clark, who was born in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, in 1722 and who emigrated to the US sometime between 1760 and 1788.

Mr Clark's move to America transformed his family's fortunes. William Andrews Clark (1839-1925), who bought the violin for Huguette, went on to become one of the American's richest men.

His wealth came from mining, banking and railroads. After mining in Colorado, he moved to Montana for the gold rush. He later became a senator for Montana.

Sunday Independent

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