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Why Mozart’s hair is worth four times Beethoven’s

May 29, 2015 by norman lebrecht

12 comments.


A lock of Wolfi’s fetched £35,000 this week at Sotheby’s. A snipping of Ludwig’s made just £8k.

Scarcity value, presumably.

What would people be prepared to pay for baldie Bruckner?

 

Anton-Bruckner-001


Comments (12)

  1. Michael Endres says:

    Whilst searching for Bruckner’s rather illusive hair
    ( http://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anton_Bruckner#/media/File:AntonBruckner.jpeg )
    I came across something unexpected and quite exquisite ( my apologies for digressing from the hair theme ):
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcsGWJwi84U — first 2 minutes.

  2. Robert Kenchington says:

    I think we’ve had enough Bruckner bashing for one week, thank you.

  3. Janefrost says:

    Except Bruckner wasn’t bald……… as you can clearly see in the attached picture. Bruckner had a very short hair cut, which was the usual style from his place of birth. This haircut, incidentally, was one of the reasons he was considered to be so unworldly and naive when he went to Vienna. To the sophisticated city people, he looked like a peasant. If he had grown a big Brahmsian beard and let his hair grow long, he probably would have got better reviews.

    1. John Borstlap says:

      In those times, hair formed a regular subject of concert reviews. There is the review by Debussy of a concert led by Arthur Nikish in which he makes fun of the generous hairdo of the conductor which closely follows the expressive qualities of the music: it droops depressed at the sombre adagio, but rises heroically at the finale’s trombones, etc. etc. (in ‘Monsieur Croche’).

  4. Rob van der Hilst says:

    And what about HIS one’s http://tinyurl.com/nzkzdhh & HIS’ http://tinyurl.com/pmfvsx5 and-so-on 🙂

  5. Gabe Boyers says:

    As a music antiquarian, running Schubertiade Music & Arts [www. schubertiademusic.com], I sometimes find myself dealing in composer hair clippings. Because of the ‘medium’ being by its nature very difficult to authenticate in an incontrovertible way, the assignment of value has to do largely with the provenance. In the case of the samples this week at Sotheby’s, the Mozart example was offered with a detailed documentation of provenance outlining the steps all the way back to its being gifted by Constanze herself. A cynical person could imagine that at some point the actual lock – if ever there was one – might have been swapped out and frankly, there is very little way to really know if that is true. But most likely, it is in fact the hair of Mozart and did, in fact, travel through the centuries as documented in the paperwork accompanying it. The Beethoven example, being merely a few strands as opposed to a genuine lock of hair like the Mozart, was sold without any provenance whatsoever. It could be of Beethoven, it could not be. In that case, I would say that the primary value in the lot was the very rare invitation to Beethoven’s funeral and that a serious collector would probably not put much stock in the hair strands, sold as they were without any history whatsoever. So, is Beethoven’s hair less valuable than Mozart’s? In this case, I’d say we are really comparing apples and oranges and so it’s impossible to say.

    1. Olassus says:

      Ah, documentation!

      You know, going on your excellent comment, I’d say the Beethoven was overpriced.

  6. Bill Ecker, Harmonie Autographs and Music, Inc. says:

    As a fellow music antiquarian, the rule of thumb on hair and other parts of composers, musicians and other celebrities is for certainty, a DNA test must be performed, else caveat emptor, even with a provenance. No telling if what Costanze gave out was truly Mozarts’ hair. A DNA proven Beethoven lock is at the Brilliant Center at San Diego State University. A book was also published about the lock and its’ history. That lock, like most if not all Sotheby’s locks are mostly sold with a provenance, but without a DNA test. So as I said before, caveat emptor unless you can obtain a conclusive DNA result and until then, it’s nothing but a yarn and those who are interested and choose to believe and spend their money on such relics, can.

  7. Gabe Boyers, Schubertiade Music & Arts says:

    My colleague, who has such contempt for those who would believe such “yarns” as even the word of a composer’s wife, must similarly believe that film or photographic evidence must be available to properly authenticate autographs and other collectibles. If scientific certainty is the absolute requirement, it is indeed surprising that he himself – as I do – would so devote himself to dealing in such apparently hazy quarters as, for example, the scarf of Anna Pavlova he recently offered for sale. Great provenance, no photographic evidence. Was that merely “nothing but a yarn,” a several thousand dollar one, if I recall? Though experts routinely disagree about authenticity of autographs, apparently those and other formats of the collectibles we most deal in get a scientific “pass” from Mr. Ecker. I guess not everyone shares the same “rules of thumb,” including sometimes, the apparent rule-watchdogs themselves:)

    1. Bill Ecker, Harmonie Autographs and Music, Inc. says:

      Ah, but that was several years back, not recently and was sold with a provenance letter from her “husband-manager” gifting it to the recipient, sold for far less than several thousand dollars and had a caveat emptor due to the very fact that we could not find a photograph of her wearing the specific item. Also for that reason, priced much lower than it would have been had we found a photograph of her wearing the item.

      The caveat emptor notice on the invoice is what is most important, which Sotheby’s does in the legalese of their general sales contracts, but should also in the body of their catalogs, hair is not an autograph, not the written word where in most cases we have hundreds to thousands of examples of most people of fame that can easily be accessed for comparative basis and easily can move forward for scientific testing if need be. Hair is not such an easy proposition, as one has to have previous samples of the individual in question, taken directly from the individual and safeguarded until the time of testing and or a near relative.

      All that said, I always enjoy a good hairy story, but will never deal in celebrity hair.

  8. I could be completely wrong here says:

    I would think scarcity value too, but maybe also because of the fact that Mozart’s always portrayed as wearing a wig. “OMG! What does his ACTUAL hair look like??” must have been what bidders were wondering…

  9. Mini says:

    Well, why? Unless they’re planning to clone these great people? Some people have a problem with cloning such geniuses but never have a really good argument against it. Their existence would be at least as valid as any new random people and those pointless morons I just saw splashing around drunk in our town center fountain.

    But you see, people think they have a principle even when there is no real principle to justify discriminating against a cloned genius as opposed to a random individual.


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