A lock of Ludwig van Beethoven’s hair, which the composer cut off himself and gave to a pianist in 1826, will hit the auction block this Tuesday.
Sotheby’s will auction off the unique item, an oval frame containing a “substantial” lock of Beethoven’s gray and brown hair. The hair has a pre-auction estimate of $15,000 to $19,000.
According to the auction house, Beethoven personally gave the lock of hair to pianist Anton Halm in 1826, a year before Beethoven’s death.
“Halm told Beethoven’s great biographer A.W. Thayer that, while at work on the Grosse Fuge in 1826, he had asked Beethoven’s factotum Carl Holz to secure a lock of Beethoven’s hair for his wife Maria. The hairs arrived a few days later, supposedly Beethoven’s, but in fact cut from a goat,” Sotheby’s said of the item.
“When he had finished his arrangement of the fugue, Halm brought it and the hair to Beethoven. The composer was furious that his friend had been deceived, and promptly snipped off some hair and gave it to him, declaring it to be genuine.”
As CNN notes, this marks the second auction of Beethoven’s hair: In 1994, two Beethoven enthusiasts purchased a lock of hair to determine why the composer suffered from poor health. The hair was cut from Beethoven’s head upon his death in March 1827 at the age of 56.
Based on current pre-auction estimates, Beethoven’s hair is expected to fetch less than John Lennon’s, as a lock of the then-Beatle’s hair that a hairdresser snipped off in 1966 sold for $35,000 in 2016. That same year, a lock of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance-era blonde hair sold for $18,000.