Not Guglielmo Marconi, but his older brother, Alfonso. Both were capable musicians and word has it that the younger brother accompanied his violinist sibling on the piano. (You don’t get to be a great inventor without having some music in your fingers.)
The 1718 Antonio Stradivari was previously owned by a Duke of Marlborough, Churchill’s ancestor. Churchill was famously tone deaf.
(Alfonso’s the son on the right)
The fairly low price expected at auctions suggests issues with condition or provenance. Check before you bid.
The London-based specialist musical instrument auctioneers Ingles & Hayday announced today (Monday, September 1st, 2014) that they will be offering a violin attributed to Antonio Stradivari which once belonged to Alfonso Marconi, brother of the famous inventor Guglielmo Marconi, in their sale on Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 at 2pm at Sotheby’s, New Bond Street, London, W1A 2AA. It is estimated to fetch £140,000-180,000.
Alfonso Marconi was born in 1865 and was nine years older than Guglielmo. He assisted his brother in his early experiments, famously firing the shot which confirmed the successful transmission of a radio signal over a hill near their home in 1895. Alfonso was a talented violinist and was often accompanied by his younger brother at the piano.
The violin is first recorded by the London dealer Hart & Son in 1874, who sold it to Charles McMillan and noted that it had been in the possession of the Duke of Marlborough. In all probability, this was George Spencer Churchill, 5th Duke of Marlborough, who reigned from 1817 to 1840 and was a talented composer and performer. He was famously self-indulgent and spent large sums on books, orchids and violins. He also owned another Stradivari violin of the same year, 1718.
In 1923 the violin was in French ownership, and was sold around 1925 to Heinrich Glatz Neumann of Vienna. Glatz Neumann also owned the 1688 ‘Cazenove, Marylebone’ Stradivari cello, now part of the Smithsonian Institute’s Stradivari quartet. By 1931 the violin had been sold to Alfonso Marconi, who only owned it for a few years, as he died in 1936. It has been in private European ownership ever since.