The oft-cited Stradivari violins and cellos are not the only string instruments that the famous Stradivari family crafted. They made violas as well. In fact, there are currently 13 known Stradivarius violas still in existence to this day. These instruments are so rare that one even was on market in 2014 for $45 million. Unfortunately, that viola, named MacDonald, didn’t receive any bids. As Bloomberg keenly points out, MacDonald was the butt of just another viola joke:


Q: What do you call the world’s most valuable musical instrument if nobody wants it? A: A viola

In a failure-to-sell that promises to revive the catty, music-nerd viola joke genre, auctioneers Sotheby’s and Ingles & Hayday said that at the close of sealed bidding for the 1719 “Macdonald” viola, nobody had offered the minimum $45 million price. It would have been a world record for an instrument.

Courtesy of Bloomberg


Listen to the MacDonald Viola

Wikipedia includes a comprehensive list of the 13 existing Stradivari violas:

Sobriquet Year Provenance Notes
Mahler 1672 Habisreutinger Foundation The first of the Stradivarius violas; currently on loan to French violist Antoine Tamestit
Tuscan-Medici Tenor 1690 Cosimo III de’ Medici
Conservatorio Luigi Cherubini (Florence)
Tuscan-Medici 1690 Cosimo III de’ Medici
Cameron Baird
Commissioned by Cosimo III de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany; currently on loan to the U.S. Library of Congress
Axelrod 1696 Donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1997 by Herbert R. Axelrod. Now part of the Axelrod quartet.
Archinto 1696 Royal Academy of Music[129]
Spanish Court 1696 Patrimonio Nacional, Palacio Real, Madrid, Spain[17] Collectively known as del Cuarteto Real (The Royal Quartet) when included with the violin duo los Decorados (Spanish I and II, 1687-1689) and the Spanish Court cello of 1694.
MacDonald 1701 Peter Schidlof To be sold at auction through London musical instruments auction house Ingles & Hayday[130] in conjunction with Sotheby’s in Spring 2014 via silent auction. Winning bid was to be announced on June 25, 2014, but the instrument failed to attract a buyer matching the minimum bid of $45 million.[131]
Kux; Castelbarco 1714 Fridart Foundation Converted from viol to viola by Jean Baptiste Vuillaume[132]
The Russian 1715 Russian State Collection
Cassavetti 1727 U.S. Library of Congress Presented by Gertrude Clarke Whittall[38]
Paganini-Mendelssohn 1731 Nippon Music Foundation[9] This viola, and the Paganini-Desaint violin of 1680, the Paganini-Conte Cozio di Salabue violin of 1727 and the Paganini-Ladenburgcello of 1736, comprise the Paganini Quartet.
On loan to Kazuhide Isomura of the Tokyo String Quartet. Formerly part of the von Mendelssohn family quartet of Stradivari’s in Berlin.
Gibson 1734 Habisreutinger Foundation Currently on loan to Swiss-Polish violist Lech Antonio Uszynski