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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mysterious Portraits

The New York Times recently ran an article in the Arts section titled "Portraits of Mystery: Wolfgang, Is that You?" The International Mozarteum Foundation, which is located in Salzburg, currently has an exhibition of Mozart portraits. According to the article, there are 14 portraits in various media that were done during Mozart's lifetime. The Mozarteum show includes 12 of these, nine of which belong to the Mozarteum. Recent research has revealed some new information about some of the images. The most famous portrait, the unfinished painting by Joseph Lange, Mozart's brother-in-law, was analyzed using x-rays and infrared. This showed that a smaller completed portrait had been mounted on the canvas, showing that the unfinished painting is an enlargement of the smaller complete work. Another painting was determined after cleaning to not be Mozart. A small portrait on ivory from 1783 that experts had doubts about is now proved to be authentic.

Portrait of Mozart by Joseph Lange
To me, as a non-expert, it is interesting how different the portraits look from one another. Most show Mozart with a full face and a bit of a double chin, though a miniature painted when he was about 16 years old depicts him as thin. Though the article doesn't address this, I thought it may have been taken after one of Mozart's illnesses. He had a number of serious illnesses as a child. The portrait from 1783, when he was about 26 looks very young -- I thought it was of him as a child.

A portrait that I find truly mysterious is the one at the Sibley Library in Rochester, New York. Sibley is the music library of the Eastman School of Music. When my husband and I went back for a reunion in 1991, the new library had been recently completed and we were able to take of tour. Going around a corner, we came to the bottom of the stairs and a striking view of a large portrait of a smiling Mozart. Everyone in our group exclaimed over it -- it's a beautiful painting and he's smiling! According to the library's web site, the painting is by Johann Heinrich Tischbein, a German painter of the 18th century. The library has no image of the painting on its website, and I have not found the picture that I remember anywhere else. Is it authentic? Tischbein died in 1788, so he would have had to paint  it during Mozart's life (as he died in 1791). If so, it should be counted among the 14 portraits painted during his life. There is no mention of it in the New York Times article. Further investigation is needed!


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just purchase a small 17th century portrait in an antique gilded frame that appears to be exactly like Tischbein's portrait of Mozart. It is painted on old artist board and was at one time in the Newhouse Galleries in New York. There was no mention of Tischbein or Mozart whenever I purchased the painting. Does anyone have any idea where I can send images to attempt to gather more information?

Anonymous said...

Correction: Above shouls read 18th century and not 17th century

beckymusician said...

I don't know anything about paintings or antiques, but maybe you could try contacting one of the Mozart museums? Vienna or Salzburg? Good luck!