A rare Stradivarius violin has smashed the world record after selling for more than $15 million at a London auction with all proceeds going to help victims of Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami.
An anonymous bidder at the Tarisio auction house paid £9.81 million ($15.07 million) for the 1721 "Lady Blunt" Stradivarius, over four times the previous auction record for a Stradivari violin.
The exquisite instrument was owned for 30 years by Lady Anne Blunt, granddaughter of the celebrated English poet Lord Byron, and is "in much the same condition as when it left its maker's hands", expert WE Hill said.
The violin was acquired by the Tokyo-based Nippon Music Foundation in 2008, and 100 per cent of the funds from the sale will be channelled to victims through the group's Northeastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund.
The violin was one of 21 string instruments held by the foundation, which loans instruments free of charge to top class musicians around the world.
Around 600 violins made by Italian master craftsman Antonio Stradivari are still in existence.
"The Nippon Music Foundation sees the instruments in its care as irreplaceably important," the group said before the sale.
"However, it has decided that the extremity of the disaster in northeastern Japan is something that overrides such feelings and is therefore selling the instrument to aid the people of that area," it said.
The March 11 disasters left some 26,000 dead or missing and obliterated whole towns and villages on the northeast coast.