Stradivarius Thieves Arrested, $6M Violin Recovered

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A rare Stradivarius violin stolen on Jan. 27 has been recovered in Milwaukee. The instrument, crafted by Antonio Stradivari in 1715, is valued at $6 million dollars.

Three individuals, described only as a 36 year old man, a 41 year old man, and a 32 year old woman were arrested Monday. They had stolen the violin from Frank Almond, concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, when Almond was walking to his car after performing at Luther College. According to Almond’s statement, an assailant approached him, tased him, took the instrument, and then jumped into a maroon Chrysler van.

After the arrests, the violin remained missing for a further two days until it was located in a suitcase in the attic of a Milwaukee residence. A reward of $100,000 had been offered for information leading to the instrument’s return.

One of the accused is reported to have an art theft conviction. "It appears we had a local criminal who had an interest in art theft and was smart enough to develop a plan for a robbery," Police Chief Edward Flynn said. "Beyond that, we don't know what his motive was."

Flynn has also noted that, while the violin was worth a lot of money, it might have been tough for the thieves to convert it to cash: "Clearly . . . this is not something that can easily be disposed of at some future date. It'll never be valuable for a thief. It's only valuable for a collector. It's only valuable to a collector if it can be played, and it can't be played if it's known to be stolen," the chief said.

Stradivari (1644-1737) was an Italian luthier who produced over 1,100 instruments in his career, of which approximately 650 survive. He is best known in popular culture for his violins. This particular violin is known as the “Lipinski Stradivarius” for having been once owned by Polish violinist Karol Lipinski. It had originally been commissioned by Giuseppe Tartini, who wanted an instrument worthy of his “Devil’s Trill” sonata. The Lipinski has changed hands several times, including a sale in 1962 for $19,000. It is currently owned by an anonymous individual, but has been on loan to the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra since 2008.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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