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The undisclosed price was said to be well in excess of the existing world auction record for any musical instrument – the $3.54m paid for the 1708 ‘Hammer’ Stradivari at Christie’s in New York in May 2006.

The Guarneri del Gesu violin, made c.1741, was the composer Henri Vieuxtemps’ concert instrument for some 15 years from the mid 1840s until about 1860. It has remained in a family collection for a century and had not been seen or played in public for more than 70 years until British concert violinist Chloe Hanslip was asked to play Paganini’s 24th Caprice as the announcement was made at New Bond Street on February 13.

Mr Viktorov own 15 violins including a Bergonzi of c.1720 purchased at Sotheby's in London in November 2005 for $1.05m.

Musical instruments have proved themselves well suited to private treaty sales. Since opening in 2004, Sotheby’s private treaty arm has sold eight Stradivaris and four Guarneri del Gesus.

Christie’s New York will offer the so-called ‘Penny’ Stradivari violin (estimate $1m-1.5m) on April 4.