A CRIME OF VIOLINS

On October 13, Adrians Voirin, a senior violin major at SMU, reported the theft of her violin from a student locker on the ground floor of the Owen Fine Arts Center. The violin, said to be a Guarnerius del Jesu – made by Bartolomeo Giuseppe Guarnieri in the 18th century – was valued at $153,000. University Park put notice of the theft on a national crime wire. Interpol was notified, as was the FBI.

Then the case took a couple of curious turns. Four days after the theft, Adriana’s father, Julio Voirin, a violin dealer and appraiser in San Antonio, raised the value of the violin to $375,000, based, he said, on the selling price of a similar violin a short while earlier. Now doubt has been raised as to the actual make and value of the stolen instrument. It seems odd that although Adriana is an accomplished violinist, giving public performances as well as playing first chair with the Dallas Civic Symphony and the SMU Orchestra, there is no indication that acknowledged experts were aware of her violin. Says Geoffrey Fushi, of Bein & Fu-shi in Chicago, one of the world’s foremost appraising firms, “There are between 175 and 200 Guarnerius violins in the world today. It’s extremely unlikely that a del Jesu worth $375,000 wouldn’t be known to everyone in the field; the chances of an unknown Degas or Renoir turning up are much greater.”

Fushi has never heard of the appraiser who originally valued the violin at $153,000, and he knows of no recent instance in which a Guarnerius del Jesu was sold for $375,000, although a Stradivarius recently brought $325,000 in a London sale. If the violin could be found, would it be difficult to determine whether it was in fact a Guarnerius? Well, says Fushi, it would take an expert “conservatively, about 30 seconds, probably less.” Mr. Voirin is traveling in Europe and was unavailable for comment.

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