A 128-year-old Italian violin that Russell Crowe learned to play in a few months before starring in Master and Commander stole the show among film memorabilia on offer at the Oscar-winning actor’s auction.

More surprisingly, a costume that he wore in the same 2003 film was not far behind, raking in $115,000.

While the violin was close to the top of Sotheby’s Australia’s valuation, the winning bid for character Captain Jack Aubrey’s dress uniform exceeded the auctioneer’s hopes by $80,000.

The violin’s price was only exceeded by a painting from Crowe’s extensive collection by Australian artist Brett Whiteley, titled Moreton Bay Fig and Palm Trees, which sold for $190,000.

The auction, titled The Art of Divorce, took place on the actor’s 54th birthday and the 15th anniversary of his wedding to singer Danielle Spencer.

A cheerful Crowe made an appearance after Sydney actress and singer Alisa Nasteski sang Happy Birthday and the crowd of bidders and spectators – some in formal wear, others wearing sports team-coloured beanies – gave him three cheers. Read more