An Amati violin, once owned by the Italian leader Benito Mussolini, is to be sold at Bonhams Musical Instruments Sale in London on 12 May. It is estimated at £100,000-150,000.

The violin was made in around 1700 in the northern Italian town of Cremona by Hieronymus Amati, grandson of Andrea Amati who in the 16th century is credited with creating the violin family – the violin, viola and cello. Hieronymus was the last instrument maker in the famous family and his father, Nicolò, is considered one of the finest violin makers in history, rivaled only by Antonio Stradivari and Andrea Guarneri.

Benito Mussolini was Prime Minister of Italy from 1922 to 1943 but is better known as Il Duce - The Leader - after the imposition of a one party Fascist state in 1925. He was a keen violinist and played duets with his fourth son, Romano. A photograph of Mussolini playing the violin – although not the Amati instrument in the Bonhams sale – is included with this lot.

The instrument - and Mussolini's ownership of it - was authenticated in 1955 by the American specialist, Emil Herrmann and a certificate to this effect will be offered with the violin. Herrmann's opinion was confirmed in 1979 by Kenneth Warren & Son, Chicago.

Bonhams Director of Musical Instruments, Philip Scott, said: "Amati violins are keenly sought after for the quality of their craftsmanship and the beauty of their sound. This violin by the last of the family to devote his career to instrument making has, of course, the additional fascination of a direct link to a well known historical figure."


NOTES FOR EDITORS

Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com