A baby grand piano that once belonged to Freddie Mercury sold for over £1.74 million ($2.2 million) at a Sotheby’s auction Wednesday.
Bought in 1975 and imported to England from Japan, the Yamaha G2 was used by the Queen frontman to compose his seminal track “Bohemian Rhapsody” that same year.
The instrument was among dozens of items to go under the hammer in the first of six auctions dedicated to the musician’s private collection of some 1,400 possessions. Among the other top lots was a previously unseen early draft of “Bohemian Rhapsody” — complete with annotations suggesting that the song may have initially been titled “Mongolian Rhapsody” — that fetched £1.38 million ($1.74 million).
The 59 lots sold at Wednesday’s auction, which fetched a total of £12.2 million ($15.4 million), included stage costumes, jewelry and paintings from Mercury’s extensive art collection. Other items ranged from the historic silver sequined catsuit worn on the “News of the World” tour in the late 1970’s to everyday items owned by the artist, such as a collection of chopsticks and a Sony D-50 CD player.
Mercury’s piano attracted the evening’s biggest bid, despite falling short of pre-auction estimates. Sotheby’s had initially predicted that it would fetch between £2 million and £3 million ($2.5 million to $3.8 million).
The trove of possessions has been put on sale by Mercury’s close friend Mary Austin, who inherited most of his estate and looked after his former London home following his death in 1991.
In a Sotheby’s press release prior to the sale, Austin said that the piano was so cherished by Mercury that he saw it as an extension of himself and kept it in immaculate condition. “He would never smoke at the piano or rest a glass on top of it, and would ensure nobody else did either,” she is quoted as saying.
In addition to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the instrument was used to write some of Queen’s best-known songs, including “Don’t Stop Me Now” and “Somebody to Love,” according to Sotheby’s.
Mercury’s hallowed piano was among around 1,200 other auction items — acquired from various periods of his life, from his early school days through to the height of his fame — that went on display in London ahead of the sale. Sotheby’s reported that over 140,000 visitors attended the month-long exhibition.
The remaining five auctions will take place in London and online through Tuesday.