Freddie Mercury’s Iconic Piano Fetches £1.7m, Setting New Auction Record at Sotheby’s

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The final strains of a historic cadenza echoed down the auction hall as a Yamaha baby grand piano, made iconic by Freddie Mercury, the late frontman of Queen, sold for a cool £1.7 million. Though it fell ever so slightly short of its estimated worth, it still set a new record for a composer’s piano, according to the esteemed auctioneers, Sotheby’s.

Not only was Mercury’s beloved instrument auctioned off, but a trove of thousands of his personal mementos took center stage during a live auction, with weeks of public exhibition preceding this grand sale. These auctions, dividing the vast collection into digestible lots, continue in several further rounds, including two sessions conducted live.

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Among the first pieces sold was the door to Mercury’s Garden Lodge residence in West London, fetching a stunning £412,750 – buyer’s premium and fees inclusive. This sale hugely surpassed its estimated value, which ranged between £15,000 to £25,000.

Globally renowned for their genre-melding concoction of glam rock, heavy metal, and flamboyant theatrics, Queen, under Freddie’s extraordinary leadership, became one of the pivotal bands of the 1970s.

The centerpiece of the auction was not just the legendary piano. An original 15-page manuscript for the band’s magnum opus Bohemian Rhapsody, originally dubbed “Mongolian Rhapsody”, fetched £1.3 million. The manuscript, penciled with Mercury’s notes that hint at the vision he had for the song, was among other similarly valuable hand-written music sheets for earworms like Don’t Stop Me Now, Somebody to Love, and We Are The Champions.

Zanzibar-born Mercury, whose love for art rivalled his passion for music, left behind an enviable collection. Masterpieces by icons such as Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso, purchased last mere months before his untimely death from AIDS at 45, are also on the auction block.

In total, 1,469 items from Mercury’s Garden Lodge went up for sale, courtesy of Mary Austin, a confidante and ex-fiancée of the star.

“It’s a collection that Mary Austin has lived with and cared for more than three decades,” Gabriel Heaton, a books and manuscripts specialist at Sotheby’s commented. He noted that while Mercury may not have wished for a museum dedicated to him, he did have a fondness for auctions.

Adding to the eclectic range of items were flamboyant stage costumes, including a designer crown and cloak, a unique collection of kimonos, and even Mercury’s moustache comb. Alongside these personal effects, were intimate Polaroid photos, a collection of rock photography by Mick Rock, and even his personally annotated poetry book.

Before these items found new owners, they were collectively expected to rake in a minimum of £6 million. The collection invited public gaze and adoration at a free open exhibition that lasted a month. The proceeds from the sale would partially be donated to charities such as the Mercury Phoenix Trust and the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Interestingly, Elton John’s own Sotheby’s auction in 1988 saw 2,000 lots sold for a total of £4.8 million.