Study: Beethoven Hair Auctioned for Thousands May Not All Be His

UNSPECIFIED - DECEMBER 23: Portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), German composer a
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Hair samples believed to be from Ludwig van Beethoven that were auctioned for high prices might not actually be his, according to DNA testing.

Locks of the composer’s hair that were apparently kept as remembrances at the time of his death in 1827 have been sold for a total of almost $140,000 over the past three decades, Business Insider reported Sunday.

Genetic testing on several hair samples believed to be the composer’s showed that at least one high profile clipping may not have belonged to him.

The information came as part of a study into his life and health issues published Wednesday in Current Biology, titled “Genomic analyses of hair from Ludwig van Beethoven.”

The Current Biology article continued:

On the basis of these genetic data, and in light of their known provenance histories, we conclude that the Müller, Bermann, Halm-Thayer, Moscheles, and Stumpff Locks almost certainly authentically derive from Beethoven, the Cramolini-Brown Lock is almost certainly inauthentic, the Hiller Lock is definitely inauthentic, and the authenticity of the Kessler Lock could not be determined.

A monument of German pianist and composer Ludwig van Beethoven is pictured on January 21, 2020, in Bonn, Germany. (Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

The most famous among the samples used for the study was the Hiller Lock. However, it was determined the hair came from a woman. In the early 1990s, it was sold for $7,300 and has since been displayed as authentic hair taken from Beethoven.

According to Classic FM, Beethoven was a German composer and pianist who was born in December 1770. The site described him as “arguably the defining figure in the history of Western music.”

“Ill health and increasing deafness caused a drop in productivity at the end of Beethoven’s life, but he still managed to produce important works like his ‘Late Quartets’ in 1825, which were wildly inventive for the time,” the site read.

Following an extended illness, he died in Vienna in March 1827. He was 56-years-old at the time of his death, per Biography.


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