Pot Pourri

Sotheby’s to auction substantial lock of Beethoven’s hair

LONDON: British auction house Sotheby’s plans to sell on Tuesday what it says is a “substantial” lock of Ludwig van Beethoven’s hair that the German composer himself cut off and gave to a pianist friend in 1826. The lock is expected to fetch up to 15,000 pounds ($19,000) but the director of books and manuscripts at Sotheby’s, Simon Maguire, said it could end up selling for more than that. “There’s already been quite a lot of interest,” he said. Recounting the story behind the item, Maguire said Austrian pianist Anton Halm had asked for a lock of hair to give to his wife as a keepsake but Beethoven’s servant had instead sent the hair of a goat, infuriating the composer. “And he then gave (Halm), in a piece of paper, a lock of hair that he had just himself cut from the back of his head, a substantial lock. And he said this one at least you can be sure is genuine,” Maguire said. Halm later gave the lock to a pupil, Julius Epstein, who was professor of piano at the Vienna Conservatory. Its authenticity was also confirmed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer, author of the first scholarly biography of Beethoven, Maguire added. Sotheby’s has in the past auctioned a smaller lock of Beethoven’s hair, taken on his death bed a year later, in 1827, as well as the hair of fellow composers Frederic Chopin and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and of British naval hero Horatio Nelson. “This one (to be auctioned on Tuesday) is unusual in that it has a very substantial early story and also it is quite a substantial lock,” said Maguire, adding that other locks sold under auction had mostly been reduced to a few strands of hair. (Reuters)

Yorkshire stately home appeals for return of whale bones

NEW YORK: A stately home is asking people to return parts of a whale skeleton so it can be restored. Over the years the whale – kept at Burton Constable Hall, East Yorkshire – has lost 11 of its 44 vertebrae and much of its left flipper. It is believed that people took the bones as souvenirs. One is described as a “really big one” and a “bit larger than a dinner plate”. The 48ft skeleton, which was described in the classic novel Moby Dick, was washed up in Tunstall in 1825. After being dissected on the beach, it was mounted on an iron structure in the grounds of the home, and scientists, writers and tourists went to see it. It has since been neglected and fallen into disrepair. The restoration project is being undertaken to mark the 200th birthday of Moby Dick writer Herman Melville. Burton Constable Hall’s curator, Philippa Wood, said the skeleton was “in a dreadful state – it was covered in moss and the surface was very weak”. Wood said the aim is to “try and rejoin the missing bones with the rest of the skeleton before the major restoration project”. (Agencies)

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