How much for Beethoven’s hair?

A lock of the composer’s hair fetched £35,000 (US$44,000) yesterday at Sotheby’s, twice the estimated price.

It was allegedly snipped off in 1826 as a keepsake by the pianist Anton Halm.

Viennese barbershops are now combing through their waste sacks for more.

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  • My aunt Sheila who plays the sarrusophone as a hobby, bought some hair of Solti a couple of years ago for her collection, which includes snippets of Järvi, Haitink and Boult. A friend offered her a little bunch of Mirga which she refused, because it lacked rarety value.


  • I am really excited by this finding. I hope that whoever bought it will contact a geneticist to do a complete DNA sequence of this. Beethoven, obviously had a disease which affected his hearing at an early age, hence the likelihood of a genetic problem. Further, his skull (based on the portraits) had some resemblance to what some physicians thought to be Paget’s Disease of Bone. Now we might be able to tell.

  • There’s a 2005 documentary titled “Beethoven’s Hair,” about another lock, originally snipped by the pianist Ferdinand Hiller, passed down through a couple of generations and safely saved from the Holocaust, subsequently sold at auction I(also at Sotheby’s), where one of the buyers, a portly urologist actually named Che Guevara, went on to have it tested and analysed, whereupon it was determined that Beethoven’s deafness, crankiness, and even death were (allegedly) caused, at least in part, by lead poisoning.

    • Or maybe not:

      Given how young he was when his deafness began (26-28), is it likely he had imbibed enough lead-fortified wine already that point to cause his deafness? He wasn’t the only one drinking such swill, so would there not have been a veritable epidemic of lead poisoning-induced deafness and other illnesses in Vienna at that time if his drinking habits were a major factor in his deafness? His autopsy indicated cirrhosis as at least one cause of his illnesses and death, but that was 30 years after his deafness began. While bad lead-fortified wines of the time may have helped caused his cirrhosis and early death, it seems less plausible to see it as a cause of his deafness (perhaps the excess drinking was a result rather than contributing cause of his deafness; excess drinking out of despair and depression over his hearing condition?)

      • “Early death”
        By today’s standards yes.
        Back then, 57 yrs was a decent length of time.
        Wine will have not only alleviated his depression but had a the medicinal function of killing bacteria in water etc.

  • “A lock of the composer’s hair fetched £35,000 (US$44,000) yesterday at Sotheby’s, twice the estimated price.”

    And now, back to the lab. Muahahaha!

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