Held at Sotheby’s on Wednesday (September 6), the auction saw 1,500 pieces of the late singer’s possessions go under the hammer, including handwritten lyrics for some of Queen’s most famous songs, jewellery worn by Mercury, and his collection of artwork.
The item that fetched the most at the auction house earlier this week was the piano that Mercury used to compose the hit song ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ – a 1973 Yamaha Grand, which sold for £1.7million. This surpassed the amount that John Lennon’s piano, which he used to write ‘Imagine’, reached in a previous auction. According to the Wall Street Journal, the latter sold for £1.68million in 2000, and was purchased by another musician, George Michael.
Elsewhere at the Sotheby’s auction, other items from Mercury’s self-described collection of “exquisite clutter” included 15 pages of lyrics, including those for the aforementioned 1975 hit. These were written on stationary for a defunct airline and revealed that the song was nearly titled ‘Mongolian Rhapsody’, with the frontman crossing out the first word and replacing it with “Bohemian”.
Other ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ related items sold at the auction included the silver snake bangle Mercury wore in the music video and the gold Cartier brooch that Queen’s manager gifted each member after the song topped the charts. The latter had “Queen number 1” engraved on it and went for £166,000, while the former was auctioned for £706,008.
As reported by Sky News, the silver snake bangle beat the £295,000 paid for a leather and bead talisman worn by John Lennon previously, and set the record for the most paid for a piece of jewellery once owned by a rock star.
Other highlights of the auction included the handwritten lyrics of ‘Killer Queen’ and ‘We Are The Champions’, which sold for £282,385 and £320,990 respectively, a green door decorated with hand-painted love notes from fans (£412,750) and Mercury’s iconic rhinestone crown and faux fur cloak worn during Queen’s final 1986 tour (£641,704)
Items from his art collection were also sold, including prints by Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and Marc Chagall, as well as his collection of Japanese art, which included a Utagawa Hiroshige 1857 woodblock print which fetched £295,169.
The singer died in 1991 of AIDS-related pneumonia. He was aged 45. More items are set to be auctioned off and proceeds are expected to reach around £6million in total.
A portion of the proceeds from the auction will go to charity, and all of the money from the sale of a Cartier onyx and diamond ring – given to Mercury by Elton John – which sold for £273,000 will be donated to the Rocket Man singer’s AIDS charity.
Ahead of the auction, the items were put up for display in an exhibition named ‘Freddie Mercury: A World Of His Own’, which attracted over 140,000 visitors in just over a month.