The Fleming cello, made by Antonio Stradivari in 1717, quickly attracted a record bid of $1.35 million at auction in New York, but fell short of the undisclosed reserve price. The instrument is named for Amaryllis Fleming, the cellist daughter of painter Augustus John and the half-sister of author Ian Fleming.

The cello is one of only 60 or so Stradivari cellos in existence. It is patterned on the B-form like the Davidoff, formerly owned by Jacqueline du Pre and now played by Yo-Yo Ma. The cello’s top and head were replaced in the mid-18th Century by the Spanish luthier Jose Contreras, which perhaps had some influence on the price, but it is more likely that the current economic uncertainty has made investors more cautious.

The cello was being auctioned online by Tarisio – a company that specialises in the sale of fine instruments. The cello was expected to reach a price of between US$1.48m and US$1.97m. But bidding stopped at US$1.35m – US$600,000 more than the previous record price for a cello, sold by Sotheby’s in 1988 – but still below the reserve.