A violin that may have been played on the Titanic before the doomed ship hit an iceberg and sank to the bottom of the ocean netted more than $1.6 million at auction on Saturday.
The sea-corroded string instrument is now unplayable, but it is thought to have belonged to bandmaster Wallace Hartley, who perished along with 1,500 other passengers when the massive vessel sank.
The story of Hartley’s band is a memorable part of James Cameron’s Titanic, where the bandmaster and his colleagues were seen playing “Nearer, My God, To Thee” while passengers around them screamed and drowned in the frigid water.
The incredible story was true, according to the ship’s survivors. ABC News notes that it, along with the heartbreaking portrayal in the movie, likely helped push the violin’s price up dramatically.
Peter Boyd-Smith, a Titanic memorabilia collector at the auction, commented that the price for the violin was a world record for an artifact from the ill-fated Titanic. CBS News notes that Boyd-Smith explained:
“The only other items that are probably worth that kind of money are the items salvaged from RMS Titanic if they are ever put up for sale and those are in the exhibitions that go around America and Europe.”
The collector added that the price for the Titanic violin “May never get beaten.” The violin in question bears Wallace Hartley’s name and was discovered at sea with the bandmaster’s body over a week after the Titanic sank. Ahead of the sale, auctioneer Andrew Aldridge commented, “Mr. Hartley and the band were very brave people… standing by their posts to the bitter end.”
Henry Aldridge and Son, which hosted the auction in the western England town of Devizes, stated that the violin has been tested several times to confirm its authenticity since it was discovered in 2006. The auctioneer added earlier this year that the violin belonged to Hartley “beyond reasonable doubt.”
The Titanic violin was given to Hartley from his fiancé, Maria Robinson, who had it engraved with the words, “For Wallace on the occasion of our engagement from Maria.”
[Image via ShutterStock]