He was an important and influential violin maker who has been called the 'Scottish Stradivari', with his instruments praised for both their beauty and quality of tone. 

Now an ‘outstanding’ violin crafted by pre-eminent Edinburgh violin maker Matthew Hardie over 200 years ago has appeared for sale in Australia, and could fetch over half a million pounds.

The instrument has appeared on online market place eBay, and is listed with a ‘buy it now’ price tag in Australian dollars of $995,000 - equivalent to roughly £566,000.

Only around a dozen or so of Matthew Hardie’s violins are believed to exist from a total output of hundreds of instruments, each example of which helped to establishing Hardie as one of the earliest British makers to consciously copy Stradivari’s work. 

Nowadays, Hardie’s instruments can command premium prices across the globe, with a cello made by Hardie seeling for almost £30,000 in 2006 and a violin made in 1815 appearing for sale online by a US vendor back in 2018 with a price-tag of £55,000. 

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The eBay listing notes that the violin, which has been dated to “circa 1800” is “certified by renowned London expert Andreas Woywod”. 

The expert notes that the violin “is at present in a very good state of preservation, still retaining its original neck” and considers it “a fine and characteristic example of Matthew Hardie’s work”. 

The listing reads: “This outstanding violin was crafted by Matthew Hardie (1755 - 1826) a highly respected maker often referred to as the Scottish Stradivari. Certified by renowned London expert Andreas Woywod. 

HeraldScotland: A portrait of Matthew Hardie by Sir William AllanA portrait of Matthew Hardie by Sir William Allan (Image: National Galleries of Scotland)

“Modelled after a Stradivari, this violin is a prime example from the golden period of the maker's life when his instruments are said to rival those of the great Antonio Stradivari. The sound of this violin is warm, clear, resonant and powerful and the violin speaks easily. This violin just wants to sing. It is a remarkable instrument in the quality of it's tone and in the quality of it's craftsmanship.

“A unique feature of this violin is it's magnificent one piece back made of the finest maple, which the maker would have reserved for only his very best instruments. The original golden red varnish is just beautiful to behold.”

The violin also “retains it's original neck and it would be perfectly suited to playing music of that era” and was “restored by Ian Watchorn with the help of David Rattray to confirm makers identity”. 

Born in 1754, Matthew Hardie, the son of Jedburgh clock-maker Stephen Hardie, apprenticed as a joiner, and following military service was established as a professional violin repairer by 1784. 

Hardie was based in Edinburgh’s Lawnmarket from 1790, shifting the location of his business premises a number of times across the city before relocating to Calton Hill. 

His instruments were highly regarded in his day and favoured by a number of prominent musicians, including celebrated Scottish composer and violinist Nathaniel Gow.

As well as being called the 'Scottish Stradivari', because of his reputation and output, Hardie can also be considered the ‘father’ of the Edinburgh tradition of violin making. 

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In British Violin Makers: Classical And Modern, published in 1904, William Meredith Morris wrote that Hardie’s work “is excellent, and deserves much more attention than has been given it by English connoisseurs and writers.

“He must have been a prolific maker, and his fame had spread far in his own day. His instruments found their way to the south of England, to South Wales, and even to the west of Ireland early in last century.

“In his best instruments the workmanship is very fine. The scrolls, although copies, have the stamp of genius upon them.”

His reputation was such that a portrait of Hardie was painted by distinguished Scottish historical painter Sir William Allan in 1822.

His skills were passed onto family members, in what was to become a dynasty of violin makers.

Despite his fame, Hardie was also troubled by constant financial trouble, which led to the production of a number of less fine instruments alongside those of excellent quality.

Hardie died in impoverished circumstances aged 71 in 1826 while a resident in the Edinburgh Charity Workhouse and was buried in Greyfriars kirkyard, with his remains laid to rest in the portion of the churchyard allotted to paupers.