The Omega Ensemble’s next concert, Eternal Quartets, will feature a piece of film memorabilia picked up by a donor at Russell Crowe’s now infamous Art of Divorce auction. The Ensemble’s principal violinist Alexandra Osborne will be playing the bow used by Crowe when preparing for the 2003 film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. The bow, a Victor Fétique silver mounted bow, circa 1920, with round stick, ebony frog with silver rings and pearl eyes, silver overlaid adjuster and an ivory head plate, was sold for $10,606.68, including the buyer’s premium, at Crowe’s post-divorce auction through Sotheby’s.

Russell Crowe's bow, Art of Divorce, Omega EnsembleAlexandra Osborne with Russell Crowe’s bow. Photo courtesy of Omega Ensemble

Crowe played the role of Captain Jack Aubrey in Master and Commander, playing a violin in the film. “At the beginning of the Master & Commander shoot in Rosarito, Mexico, the props department handed me a dark and heavy German violin to use in the movie,” Crowe said in a statement on the violin’s provenance. “It was my thought that the Captain (Jack Aubrey), as gruff as he may be, would play a finer instrument. Peter Weir, (the director), agreed with me, but the film’s budget couldn’t take the extra cost. So I had my friend, Richard Tognetti, (from the Australian Chamber Orchestra), and my violin teacher, Robert Greene, try to track down something more suitable. They found me this beautiful Leandro Bisiach (made in Milan in 1890). Though it was a later piece than the time period of the film, the fact that it was in the style of Guarneri meant that it was a shape and style that Aubrey would have purchased. This is a serious concert level violin with a beautiful tone. It comes with a faux-Baroque bow, which was also used in the film. Also included is a piece of silk that the Captain draped under his chin when he played it.”

While the generous donor who has kitted out the Omega Ensemble with the Master and Commander’s practice bow, they missed out on the violin and bow used in the film – the violin, by Leandro Bisiach Snr, went for $164,700.

“The donor approached Omega Ensemble in regards to the violin and bows that were to be auctioned,” Omega Artistic Director David Rowden told Limelight. “The bidding for the violin was competitive and sold high, but we are lucky to have acquired one of the bows.”

The bow will feature in Omega’s Eternal Quartets concert on Wednesday night, as well as their next concert in July. “We hope from there it will make a regular appearance with the Ensemble throughout this and future seasons,” said Rowden.

The auction included items ranging from props and costuming used in the 2000 film Gladiator (including a fully functioning replica Roman chariot), to paintings by Margaret Olley, Norman Lindsay and Sidney Nolan, a suite of electric guitars, Donald Bradman memorabilia and even a boxer’s groin protector used in the 2005 film Cinderella Man (which sold for $8,540).

“In case anyone is interested … 3.7million at the coal face and around $350k of conversations ongoing,” Crowe Tweeted after the auction. “And a bunch of stuff I didn’t really want to sell coming home.”

“The violin and two bows were all under consideration,” Rowden said. “Omega has a core group of supporters who are working with the Ensemble for an instrument fund, in particular the acquisition of notable string instruments. We are very grateful to this supporter who has made this first loan.”

Osborne will debut the bow with the ensemble in Eternal Quartets. “It is a light weight and very comfortable, smooth and has a good bounce and warm rich tone,” she told Limelight.

Crowe’s Art of Divorce auction was raising money for the Australian Children’s Music Foundation (ACMF), a not-for-profit organisation that provides weekly music education classes and instruments to disadvantaged children and youth at risk throughout Australia.


The Omega Ensemble performs Eternal Quartets at City Recital Hall on April 11

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