Behind the façade of the famous auction house, adorned with an imposing mustache for the occasion, was recreated the universe of the singer, who died in 1991 of AIDS, in his house of Garden Lodge, in Kensington, in the west of the British capital.

It is in this house that were kept these "treasures" for three decades, said Thursday David Macdonald, the sales manager "sole proprietor".

Walking through the different rooms allows you to admire emblematic pieces, such as the crown and cape worn by the artist at the time of the "God Save The Queen" which concluded each concert of Queen's last tour, "The Magic Tour" in 1986.

According to Cécile Bernard, Sotheby's managing director for Europe, the extent of Mercury's love for Japan is one of the discoveries made during the preparation of the exhibition - free and open until September 5, the date of birth of the singer - and the series of six auctions organized in September.

The kimonos, prints, porcelain, lacquers, that he collected represent "a completely unique set," she told AFP.

"Mongolian Rhapsody"

The furniture captures the atmosphere of Garden Lodge. Here a worn kitchen table, there a garden furniture, the visitor can imagine the festive meals and the tinkling of the fine dishes, the spoon that comes to touch the hollow plate decorated with a pheasant.

Choice piece is the beautiful 1941 Wurlitzer jukebox that the singer had bought for his home kitchen, loaded with records like Ray Charles' "Hallelujah I Love Her So", Little Richard's "Rit It Up" and Bill Haley's "Shake, Rattle and Roll".

Music is mainly discussed in drafts of Queen's greatest hits, first and foremost that of "Bohemian Rhapsody". Fifteen pages that reveal the different directions envisaged by the artist for this title which was initially to be called "Mongolian Rhapsody".

The centerpiece of the sale, which was unveiled only Thursday, is the Yamaha piano acquired in 1975 on which Freddie Mercury composed almost everything from "Bohemian Rhapsody," according to Gabriel Heaton, a specialist in books and manuscripts. Sotheby's estimates it at between two and three million pounds sterling (2.3 - 3.5 million euros).

Freddie Mercury's dressing room also opens: his jackets, shoes, glasses, sequined stage suits with abyssal necklines, up to the yellow tank top "Champion" he wore at his last concert, on August 9, 1986.

Another particularly "moving" piece, says Cécile Bernard, a collection of poems annotated with comments by the young Farrokh Bulsara, the real name of Freddie Mercury, with a poem of his own composition.

"Best Tribute"

"When we went to Garden Lodge, where he lived, we literally opened suitcases, boxes, we found things trying to imagine: OK, where is this in the writing process? This belt, it goes with which pants?", says Cécile Bernard. "We kind of played archaeologists doing this, having so much fun!"

In total, about 30 to 40,000 objects are on sale, explains to AFP Fenella Theis, of the department books and manuscripts. "Each piece is so autobiographical" and reflects one of the "many, many facets" of the artist's personality, she notes.

Freddie Mercury's crown and cape ensemble, worn throughout Queen's "Magic" tour in 1986, at Sotheby's in London, August 3, 2023 © Daniel LEAL / AFP / Archives

The entire collection is offered for sale by Mary Austin, one of the artist's closest friends, who was also his companion.

The profits will be partly donated to foundations involved in the fight against AIDS.

"He liked to collect", "buy at auction", argues Cécile Bernard, for whom these sales represent "the best tribute" that could be paid to "Freddie".

© 2023 AFP