The violin, referred to as The Hammer, derives its name from the first recorded owner, 19th century Swedish collector, Christian Hammer. As court jeweler to the Swedish royal family, Christian Hammer was a collector with an insatiable appetite. During his lifetime, Hammer accumulated over 400,000 articles as varied as fine art, jewelry, books and manuscripts. Though little is documented regarding his musical instrument collection his existence was known to William E. Hill and Sons, who made mention of Hammer and this violin in Antonio Stradivari, His Life and Work, published in London in 1902.
In 1911 the violin was sold by the London firm of Hart & Son, and brought to America by the violinist and teacher Bernard Sinsheimer. As well as being a celebrated soloist and chamber musician, Sinsheimer was a savvy collector who owned no fewer than five works by Stradivari during his career. The instrument later came into the possession of the collector Raymond Pitcairn. The connoisseurship of Pitcairn is well documented. As a highly successful Philadelphia attorney, he owned two other Stradivari as well as a 1737 Carlo Bergonzi and a Gasparo da Salo of 1570. Both music and connoisseurship continues to be evident in the Pitcairn family. The great-niece of Raymond Pitcairn is violin virtuoso Elizabeth Pitcairn owner of the 1720 Stradivari known as The Mendelssohn. Purchased at Christie's London sales rooms in 1990, it was at the time the world auction record for a work by Stradivari.
In 1927 the violin passed to Albert H. Wallace through the New York dealer Emil Herrmann. A resident of Los Angeles, Wallace was also an important collector who possessed three other works by Stradivari as well as a Bergonzi and a Nicolo Amati. In 1945 the violin was sold by Rembert Wurlitzer to Chicago businessman Laddie Junkunc. There the violin remained until 1992, when it came into possession of the present owner.
Purchased for philanthropic reasons, the violin was, until recently, on loan to violinist Kyoko Takezawa. A prolific recording artist and celebrated soloist Ms Takezawa used The Hammer Stradivari as her primary performance instrument.
E. Doring, How Many Strads? Our Heritage From The Master, Chicago, 1999, pp.131, 417, 429, pl. 442.
W. Henley, Antonio Stradivari, Master Luthier, Brighton, 1961, p. 45.
E. Herrmann Meistergeigen, Berlin and New York, 1927/28.
W.H. Hill, A.F. Hill and. A.E. Hill, Antonio Stradivari, His Life and Work, London, 1902, p. 54.
H.K. Goodkind, Violin Iconography of Antonio Stradivari, New York, 1972, pl 361, pp. 730, 746, 750, 752, 758, 760, 763.