The 1695 "Axelrod" Viola by Antonio Stradivari, Cremona

Built in 1695, the “Axelrod” viola is one of only 11 Stradivarius instruments to contain decorative ornamentation personally applied by the master luthier himself. On its front and back plates, the viola bears two lines of purfling that encase miniaturized inked depictions of f-holes, while from behind the fingerboard, the wings of an unidentified coat of arms protrude on each side.

The viola currently resides in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, having been donated in the late 1990s by book publishing magnate and fish expert Herbert R. Axelrod as part of a quartet containing the 1687 “Ole Bull” violin, the c. 1700 “Greffuhle” violin, and the 1688 “Marylebone” cello.