LONDON – A violin played by the Titanic’s musical conductor as the ship sank sold at auction Saturday for more than $1.7 million, a UK-based auction house said.
The violin is believed to have fetched a record price for Titanicmemorabilia, selling for 1.1 million British pounds when adding the buyer’s premium and tax, according to a statement released by Henry Aldridge and Son, which hosted the auction in Wiltshire, England.
According to survivors’ accounts William Hartley’s band played to calm passengers even as the ship sank beneath them.
The scene was depicted in James Cameron’s blockbuster movie “Titanic,” which depicted Hartley and his band playing “Nearer, My God, to Thee” as the ship took on water.
Hartley’s body was reportedly pulled from the water days after the April 1912 sinking with his violin case still strapped to his back.
In 2006, the damaged violin was found in the attic of a home in Britain. It was authenticated through testing of salt water deposits, the auction house said. The violin was adorned with an engraved silver plate that connected it to Hartley.
The names of the seller and the buyer have not been released.
The famous wreckage was first discovered in 1985 off the coast of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Since then there have been a number of research and recovery expeditions, during which time the artifacts included in the sale were found.
Interest in the shipwreck peaked again after the release of the movie “Titanic” in 1997. The film grossed $1.8 billion worldwide, making it the second highest grossing film in history, according to Box Office Mojo, a site that tracks ticket sales.
Over the years, exhibitions of Titanic artifacts have made millions, and auctions have drawn high-priced sales.
In 2004, Guernsey’s auctioned off memorabilia from the Titanic and a few artifacts that had been passed down through the families of survivors. An original menu sold for about $100,000, the president of the auction house said at the time.
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