For Albert Einstein, it turns out the law of attraction was relative.
A handwritten note by the Nobel-winning scientist, written to a young woman who apparently caught his eye during a trip to Italy, was sold at auction in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
Winner’s Auctions and Exhibitions said Einstein was visiting his sister in Florence in October 1921 and learned that a young chemistry student named Elisabetta Piccini lived in the apartment upstairs. It said the 42-year-old Einstein was interested in meeting the 22-year-old woman, who was the daughter of a famous chemist, but she was too shy and turned him down.
When Einstein left Florence, he left the signed note in German: “To the scientific researcher, at whose feet I lay and sat for two full days, as a friendly souvenir.”
The phrase “to lie at somebody’s feet” is an expression of affection in German. The letter fetched $6,100 Tuesday evening, including fees.
Gal Wiener, chief executive of Winner’s, called the note “outrageous.”
“She didn’t want to meet famous people. She was modest and he left her a note,” he said. “You know nowadays the ‘Me Too’ campaign? Probably Einstein would have been in this campaign by leaving such a note to this lady.”
Tuesday’s auction also included a 1928 letter from Einstein to his colleague Herman Muntz, in which the auction house said he laid out ideas for his “Third Stage of the Theory of Relativity,” and a photo of Einstein smoking a pipe. The letter was sold for $103,700. The photo was unsold.
The auction house did not disclose the buyers.
Last October, Winner’s sold another Einstein letter with his thoughts about happiness for $1.3 million.
“We’ve been selling Einstein items for quite a long time now and we have a tremendous success,” Wiener said. He said people around the world “are interested in Einstein, not just the mathematical, the physical part, also his personal life.”