August 6, 2015

Thursday, August 06, 2015 - ,,, No comments

Ames Stradivarius owned by Roman Totenberg Recovered 35 years after theft

by Judge Arthur Tompkins

The New York Times reported August 6 ( that a Stradivarius violin stolen back in 1980 was recovered in June this year, and has been returned to the family of the original owner.

The Ames Stradivarius recovered by the F.B.I. in June.
(Credit Federal Bureau of Investigation, via Associated Press)

The ‘Ames Stradivarius’ was created by the legendary Italian violin-maker Antonio  Stradivarius in 1734. By 1980 it had been owned and played by Roman Totenberg, a well-known violin player and teacher, and director of the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Mass., for nearly 40 years.  At the time of the theft, which happened during a reception following a concert, the violin was said to be valued at $250,000.

Saratoga Herald-Tribune, Friday May 16, 1980, page 5-A.
Michael Cooper reported in The NYT that the violin re-appeared earlier this year after an unnamed woman, who recounted that she had inherited the violin from her late ex-husband, sought advice from an appraiser. The appraiser immediately recognised both that it was a genuine Stradivarius, and that it was the stolen Ames Stradivarius.  The appraiser contacted the FBI’s Art Theft team, who immediately verified the identity of the instrument and took possession of it.

As noted in The NYT, it seems that the now deceased ex-husband was suspected of the theft by Mr Totenberg (who died in 2012) right from the start:
Ms. Totenberg [Roman Totenberg’s daughter] said that the woman had inherited the violin from the man Ms. Totenberg’s father had suspected all along of stealing the instrument. The man had been seen in the vicinity of his office at Longy near the time of the theft, and a woman once visited Mr. Totenberg and told him that she believed that the man had stolen his violin. But to the family’s frustration, investigators at the time apparently did not believe that the tip was sufficient for them to obtain a search warrant.
The family had received an insurance pay-out at the time of the theft. That has now been repaid, and the instrument will be restored and sold:
“[The family are] going to make sure that it’s in the hands of another great artist who will play it in concert halls all over the world,” she said. “All of us feel very strongly that the voice has been stilled for too long.”


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