Music

Expect a symphony of bids as Beethoven's hair gets put up for auction

The strands date back to 1826.

The strands date back to 1826

(National Arts Centre)

Ever wanted to pay thousands of dollars for a lock of 193-year-old hair? What if that hair belonged to one of the most famous composers of all time?

On Tuesday, June 11, auction house Sotheby's will be putting a lock of German composer and pianist Ludwig van Beethoven's grey hair on the block. The hair, which is encased in a 19th century oval frame, was a gift to pianist Anton Halm in 1826. 

A 193-year-old lock of composer Beethoven's hair is valued at 12,000 to 15,000 pounds, which is around $20,000 to $25,000 in Canadian dollars. (Sotheby's)

According to a description on the Sotheby's website, Halm had originally asked Beethoven for a lock of his hair as a gift for his wife, Maria. "The hairs arrived a few days later, supposedly Beethoven's, but in fact cut from a goat," it continued. When Halm confronted Beethoven about this deception, he "promptly snipped off some hair and gave it to him, declaring it to be genuine." 

While the auction doesn't open until Tuesday, advance bidding has reached almost 28,000 pounds, which is approximately $47,000 in Canadian currency. 

Another lock of Beethoven's hair was sold via Sotheby's in 1994. Those strands were cut from the composer in 1827, on the day of his death. In 2001, author Russell Martin detailed the findings of several forensic tests done to the hair, in his book, Beethoven's Hair: An Extraordinary Historical Odyssey and a Scientific Mystery Solved

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