The instrument, found in a leather bag strapped on Hartley’s body, was sold to a British collector who wished to stay unidentified after an intense 10 minutes telephone bidding. The whole price including the premium paid to the auction house was $1,697,426.
“It’s a world record for a Titanic artifact,” said Peter Boyd-Smith, a Titanic memorabilia collector at the auction which was hosted by Henry Aldridge and Son in Devizes, western England. “It may never get beaten.”
The auction house said the violin attracted interest from collectors all over the world and reported that more than 315,000 people viewed it during a three-month exhibition in the United States.
Hartley together with his 7 band mates aboard Titanic played the hymn “Nearer, My God, To Thee” to calm the passengers who climbed into the lifeboats. He and his band, in choosing to play on, drowned along with 1,500 others as the ship sank after hitting an iceberg on April 15, 1912.
Rediscovered in 2006 in an attic of an unnamed house owner in northwest England, the violin’s authenticity was debated for decades but researchers later proved it genuine after 7 years of testing, which includes MRI testing.
The instrument has an inscription from Hartley’s fiancée Maria Robinson marking their engagement.
Many people still doubt whether the violin is the genuine article from the Titanic and believe it could not have survived the sinking.
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