I left my Stradivarius on top of the car while I went shopping

I left my Stradivarius on top of the car while I went shopping


norman lebrecht

December 12, 2018

That’s one version of what happened to the Duke of Alcantra Stradivari violin before it went missing in 1967.

The other is that the player left it inside the car while he went shopping.

When the instrument was eventually recovered 27 years later, lawyers had a field day trying to prove who it really belonged to.

Read here.



  • V.Lind says:

    “Nevertheless, he joined a surprisingly large group of musicians who have misplaced instruments worth hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.”

    Glad someone else has noticed the astonishingly widespread prevalence of musicians losing often-valuable instruments.

  • Kelly says:

    The instrument belongs to UCLA

  • C. Shapreau says:

    The author uses the story of the Duke of Alcantara Stradivari to make some basic legal points on the need for adequate documentation to confirm the sale and purchase of personal property. But the real issue in this case was not an absence of paperwork, because UCLA had excellent documentation in its files to prove its ownership of this violin. Instead, the main legal take away was that a thief can not generally pass good title under California law (and under U.S. law for that matter), not even to a good faith acquirer.

    The so-called “finder” of this violin, lost or stolen on the night of August 3, 1967, was Nadia Tupica who claimed she found the violin on the side of the L.A. freeway. Tupica failed to report her find to the police. Under California law, a failure to report such a valuable find constitutes a theft. Tupica could not transfer good title to anyone, since she did not have good title to pass.

    Through the excellent expertise of the very talented violin makers and restorers Sigrun Seifert and Joseph Grubaugh, this violin was identified as the missing Duke of Alcantara Stradivari, which had been reported 27 years earlier as missing; diligent and repeated efforts were made by David Margetts and the University to find this violin, yet it remained hidden under Nadia Tupica’s bed for years, and after held privately by Salvato.

    Contrary to the author’s comments, Ms. Salvato’s attorney did not aptly point out anything. UCLA, very appropriately, recovered this important violin where it continues to be regularly appreciated by students, faculty, and the public at large.

    Anyone interested in the facts of this story can find them in the book Violin Fraud: Deception, Forgery, and Lawsuits in England and America, by Brian Harvey and Carla Shapreau, Oxford University Press, Chapter 9, “The Purloined Violin,” https://global.oup.com/academic/product/violin-fraud-9780198166559?q=Violin%20Fraud&lang=de&cc=ie, in this article, “Lost and Found. And Lost Again?”, by Carla Shapreau, Los Angeles Times, February 12, 2006, https://www.latimes.com/local/la-tm-violin7feb12-story.html, and in the court file in Los Angeles Superior Court, Docket No. BC 114151.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    Some years back one of the violin case manufacturers had an advertisement in the Strad about how a case left on the roof of the car fell off on the freeway but the case was so wonderful the violin was unharmed. I think it was a string quartet player and presumably a true story. My own first violin teacher drove away while his case was sitting near the car door. When he came back it was gone but the police did recover it. Fortunately it was not his special double case that also held his Amati viola (he told me he would have killed himself had he lost that instrument, and I don’t think he was entirely kidding).

    And pity the unfortunate buyer in good faith who finds themselves the proud purchaser (and they think, “owner”) of an instrument for which their seller had no good title. At least with Strads and other such fine instruments the violin “network” seems to have a good feel for who owns what. But plenty of unremarkable violins and bows which represent nonetheless a considerable outlay have no such support. Someone says they own it and they name their price. There is no chain of title to be followed.