Beethoven's hair hits the auction block
A lock of hair belonging to Ludwig van Beethoven will be auctioned off this week, with advance building reaching more than $45,000. (Sotheby's)
Published Sunday, June 9, 2019 2:08PM EDT
If you’ve ever wanted to own the hair of one of the world’s greatest musical composers, then this is your chance.
A framed lock of hair that was once attached to the head of Ludwig van Beethoven will be available to purchase in a live auction that is scheduled to take place on Tuesday.
According to auction organizer Sotheby’s, Beethoven cut off the “substantial” lock of grey and dark brown hair in 1826 and gave it to his friend, Austrian pianist Anton Halm.
Halm told Beethoven’s biographer that he had asked a mutual acquaintance for a lock of Beethoven’s hair for his wife, only for that acquaintance to give him goat hair instead, attempting to pass it off as Beethoven’s. When Halm took his concerns to Beethoven, the composer cut a piece of his hair for Halm on the spot.
“[Beethoven] liked Halm’s bluff military manner and apparently bore him no ill-will even after Halm’s wayward piano playing in the Choral Fantasia in 1817 brought the performance to a halt,” reads the auction listing on Sotheby’s website.
Beethoven was well known for his silver locks. Author Russell Martin described it as “the physical thing that most immediately characterized him” in his 2001 book “Beethoven’s Hair.”
“It was a metaphor somehow for his eccentric ebullience, his utter unpredictability, his astonishing artistic power,” Martin wrote.
Sotheby’s says the hair has an estimated value of between 12,000 and 15,000 pounds, or $20,000 and $25,000 in Canadian figures. As of Sunday afternoon, advance bidding had reached nearly 28,000 pounds, or a little more than $47,000.
The lock of hair is one of hundreds of items Sotheby’s is listing in a set of rare items. Other featured listings include a document for a grant of land dating back to the 12th century, a leaf from a 13th-century Bible and a postcard signed by Albert Einstein.