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How to Buy Locks of Mozart, Beethoven Hair at Sotheby's London Auction [LISTING]

By K. Young k.young@classicalite.com on May 29, 2015 02:28 AM EDT

Yesterday, May 28, at Sotheby's in London, a lock of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's hair, enclosed within a gaudy 19th-century locket, went up for auction. And no one yet knows just how many of today's farthings it fetched.

According to Classical Music Magazine, Constanze Mozart (wife of Wolfie) gave the strands of hair to German conductor Karl Anschütz (who founded the German Opera in New York City), before passing into the collection of Arthur Sommervell (whose descendant is putting the item up for sale). Locks of hair were frequently taken as keepsakes from the cadavers of recently deceased composers.

Or anyone, really: Oliver Cromwell, Napoleon, hell, even Hitler. Lest we forget, too, Rasputin's, um, member.

And, of course, Chopin's literal heart.

Upon visiting the composer's pauper's grave to pay his last respects, Gerhard von Breuning (son of Beethoven's lifelong friend, Stephan von Breuning) noted that strangers had already cut all the strands of his hair.

Requiem, indeed.

As per Sotheby's of London, the auction also featured a printed invitation to Beethoven's funeral, as well as a small lock of his own white hair sewn onto silk. That, alone, was estimated to bid for nearly 5,000 pounds Brit sterling.

What a cheapskate.

According to the provenance of Sotheby's catalogue note, Anschutz came to England in 1849, led the orchestra at Drury Lane and conducted Beethoven's Ninth Symphony at the Exeter Hall, before emigrating to New York in 1857. Enter, then, Arthur Somervell (1863-1937)--one of the most successful English song composers. He married Edith (daughter of James Collet, a civil engineer) in 1890, which may be the date of the locket's origin. The lock of hair has come down to the present owner by direct descent from Somervell.

Classicalites, if you've got deep pockets and are looking for a weird great piece to add to your collection of totes-not-creepy follicles, well, you might've missed just missed your chance.

Or, did you?

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TagsMozart, Beethoven, Sotheby's, Karl Anschütz, Arthur Somervell

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