When Jeffrey Epstein died in prison in 2019, he took many secrets with him. One was how a sexual predator and college dropout managed to forge bonds with an astonishing number of the world’s richest and most powerful men, like Britain’s Prince Andrew and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.
Another was why Mr. Epstein owned a rare Italian cello. It was the only nonfinancial asset listed on his foundation’s annual tax forms, described simply as “cello” and carried on the books at a value of $165,676.
Mr. Epstein had never played the cello or shown any interest in musical instruments as an investment.
The first mystery is large, and it is still being untangled by lawyers, victims and journalists. The second is seemingly small, contained to the rarefied world of fine string instruments. But the two mysteries are connected. And the cello’s strange journey into and out of Mr. Epstein’s possession offers a window into the notorious criminal’s life and legacy.
Mr. Epstein’s Manhattan mansion was filled with curiosities. There was a portrait of Bill Clinton in a blue dress, a stuffed giraffe, prosthetic breasts in the master bathroom.
But more than objects, Mr. Epstein collected people. Over the years he cultivated leaders in the fields of business, finance, politics, science, mathematics, academia, music, even yoga. He often cemented the relationships with introductions to others in his orbit, donations to causes they supported or other gifts and favors.
That is where the cello came in.