The "Evangelists" Quartet by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume recently sold at auction by Ingles & Hayday at Soethby's in London for £960,000 (approximately $1.35m US). The Quartet consists of two violins, a viola, and a cello constructed together by Vuillaume in Paris in 1863 with matching wood. The instruments are based on Stradivari models. The quartet is referred to as the "Evangelists" because each of the instruments has a carved tailpieces depicting one the Evangelists - Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.
Between 1863 and 1872, Vuillaume made a number of instruments dedicated to saints, known as the "Apostles." It is believed that he produced around a dozen instruments bearing the names of saints, of which nine survive. The Evangelists Quartet consists of the first four of the "Apostles," which date from 1863, and is the only one of Vuillaume’s four quartets which is still together as a set today.
The ‘Evangelists’ quartet has been held in private European collections since about 1970, where the instruments have been immaculately preserved, and played only occasionally. According to a quote from Ingles and Hayday director Tim Ingles published by the Strad Magazine, the Quartet was "bought by an Asian collector who, I am delighted to say, understands their historical value as a set, giving the opportunity for future generations to appreciate their beauty and craftsmanship."
The following video from Ingles & Hayday contains more information on the Quartet, including a performance on the instruments by the Ruisi Quartet: