A wisp of fair hair in a gold locket, curled around a note explaining that it came from the head of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, is expected to fetch up to £12,000 at auction this week.
By the time Mozart died aged 35, he had composed some of the greatest and best-loved music of all time, and the curl was treasured and handed down through the families of several musicians.
Such macabre keepsakes of the great and good, often mounted in jewellery, were common. The Sotheby’s sale where the lock is up for auction also includes an invitation to Beethoven’s funeral, and an even smaller lock of his hair, estimated at up to £3,000.
Beethoven’s friend, Gerhard von Breuning, recalled that when he came to pay his last respects to the composer in 1827, he found that previous visitors had already snipped off all his white hair.
In 2002, Sotheby’s sold another lock of Mozart’s hair, passed on by the mistress of one of the composer’s sons, which set a record price of £38,000, more than double the pre-sale estimate.
This Mozart lock was given by his widow, Constanze, to the mother of a German conductor, Karl Anschütz, and he in turn gave it to the musician Sir Arthur Somervell during a stay in England. Somervell’s wife wore it in a gold locket on a bracelet.
Somervell, whose setting of Tennyson’s Maud became the most famous and most performed of his many choral works, died in 1937, and the souvenir remained in his family until now.
Both the Beethoven and the Mozart memorabilia are on display at Sotheby’s until the music and manuscripts sale on Thursday 28 May.
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