Bid, bid, bid

Why are the incredible violins, violas and cellos in Cheltenham Festival's Painted Quartets exhibition so shocking?

They feel a little like seeing a baby with a full body tattoo; they give me the same shivery thrill I used to achieve by crayoning on the relations' wallpaper. There is something about an adorned violin that teeters on sacrilege. That iconic, organic wooden pear, unchanged for almost 500 years, seems birthed from the tree complete; such gaudy human intervention seems bombastic.

But what bombast this is. I love Jackie Morris's bardic design. Morris is a fantastic illustrator who lives in a silvered world of dragons and hounds, palfreys and hawks, flutes and mountains; her people hauntingly, elongatedly Pre-Raphaelite, her animals disconcertingly alive. I have all her books, a print on the wall. and indeed a skin of her snow leopard on my clunky old work laptop (don't worry, I asked her first).

A violin would be - oh. Swell.

However, I'm equally in lust with Peter Granville-Edmonds' burnt-out building fiddle, which captures the fragility, melancholy and fiery elementality of the violin in one. And as it seems inevitable that these instruments would impart some of their personality in performance, I feel I'd need the whole set; Paul McKee's for some flashing, bruising Irish jigs, while Anthony Frost's for some searing-bright Grappelli jazz.

They're being silently auctioned right now until 17th July.

I'm saying nothing.