The violin played by band leader Wallace Hartley as the RMS Titanic sank was sold for $1.46 million at auction on Saturday, the highest price ever paid for a relic from the ill-fated ocean liner.
Hartley and his band played “Nearer, My God, To Thee,” as passengers scrambled for lifeboats during Titanic’s doomed maiden voyage in 1912. The band sank with the ship, along with about 1,500 others.
Renowned scientist Weird Al Yankovic imagines on YouTube the mournful moments Titanic passengers faced, as their ship sank. A simulacrum of the violin just sold is featured in the clip:
Apparently, the violin was found in a leather case strapped to Hartley’s body, after it was recovered 10 days after the ship went down. A silver plate on the German-made instrument is engraved “For WALLACE on the occasion of our ENGAGEMENT, from MARIA.” It was auctioned by Henry Aldridge and Son, with a guide price of roughly $485,000.
The violin was returned to Hartley’s fiancée Maria Robinson in England, and was eventually donated to the Salvation Army after Robinson passed away in 1939. The violin in turn ended up in the hands of the owner at the time of the auction, who hasn’t been identified.
Chrissie Aldridge, called the sale a record, and identified the buyer as “A British collector.” The violin was rediscovered in 2006, and it took experts a while to authentic it. About 300,000 people viewed it during its exhibition in the U.S.
Below is a less accurate rendering of violin in use as the Titanic sank, as seen in James Cameron’s 1997 box-office flop, “Titanic,” which can now be seen on Netflix.
Before the auction of the violin, the highest price paid for a piece of Titanic memorabilia was $355,500 in 2011, for a plan of the ship used in a 1912 inquiry into the sinking.
Image via YouTube.