News archive 2008
Mozart portrait discovered14 Mar 2008, PR 49/08
A previously unknown portrait of Mozart has been authenticated by an academic from King’s College London, Professor Cliff Eisen, a world expert on the eighteenth-century composer. It could be the single most significant Mozart artefact to come to light in the last 200 years.
The portrait, painted in oils, is 19 by14 inches. It shows Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91) in profile in a red jacket that apparently corresponds almost exactly to one described by the composer to his father on 28 September 1782, even down to the buttons. The painting could be worth several million dollars.
Professor Eisen has undertaken extensive research to authenticate the portrait probably executed by Joseph Hickel (1736-1807), painter to the Imperial Court of Austria, about 1783. The portrait’s provenance, together with letters from Mozart and his family, archival documents including late eighteenth-century Salzburg wills and estate auction records, all point to the sitter as Mozart.
‘This is arguably the most important Mozart portrait to be discovered since the composer’s death in 1791, and only the fourth known authentic portrait of him from the Vienna years, the period of his greatest professional successes and greatest compositional achievements’, said Professor Eisen.
To date only three other authentic pictures of Mozart from this time were known: a silverpoint drawing by Doris Stock, executed at Dresden in 1789; a wax medallion by Leonhard Posch, made in Vienna about 1788; and an unfinished portrait in oils by Mozart’s brother-in-law, Joseph Lange, sometime between 1782 and about 1787.
The portrait was previously owned by the family of Johann Lorenz Hagenauer, the Mozarts’ close friend and one-time landlord in Salzburg. According to long-standing family oral tradition, the portrait was a gift to Mozart in return for his composition of the wind serenade K375 for a member of Hickel’s family.
Professor Simon Keefe, James Rossiter Hoyle Chair of Music, University of Sheffield, comments: ‘This is indeed an exciting discovery. Professor Eisen has made a persuasive case that the portrait is in fact the portrait to which Mozart refers in a letter to his father in 1782. Given that there are very few authentic pictures of Mozart from the last ten years of his life, the discovery is an inherently significant one. Needless to say, it will encourage us to think afresh about Mozart’s appearance. Furthermore, it should soon as of right join the other two most famous pictures of the adult Mozart – an unfinished painting by Mozart’s brother-in-law Joseph Lange and a posthumous one by Barbara Kraft – as the defining image of the composer in the public consciousness.’
Unknown for more than 200 years, the portrait was bought in 2005 by an American collector, who was unaware of its significance until Daniel N Leeson of Los Altos, California, established the Hagenauer connection. Plans have been mooted to exhibit the picture, together with other previously unknown Mozart artefacts.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born at Salzburg in 1756 and died at Vienna in 1791, aged 35. He took up residence in Vienna in 1781 and it was there that he composed his most famous works, including most of his piano concertos, the six quartets dedicated to fellow composer Joseph Haydn, the G-minor and ‘Jupiter’ symphonies, and his operas Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte and Die Zauberflöte, as well as the unfinished Requiem. He is generally considered to be one of the greatest – and possibly the most universal – of all composers. All told he wrote more than 600 works.
Professor Eisen will present his findings to an invited academic audience of Royal Musical Association members on Saturday 15 March.
Notes to editors
Professor Cliff Eisen
Professor Eisen, Department of Music, is an internationally renowned expert on Mozart and music of the late 18th century. His edition of Hermann Abert’s classic Mozart biography, W. A. Mozart, was published in 2007. In a review of the book for the New York Review of Books, Charles Rosen said of Cliff Eisen, he is ‘one of the most brilliant Mozart scholars of our time… his knowledge of the composer and the musical life of his time has no superior and few equals.’
Professor Simon Keefe
Professor Keefe is the author/editor of five books since 2001 on Mozart with Cambridge University Press and Boydell & Brewer.
King’s College London
King’s College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (Times Higher 2007) and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King’s has 19,700 students from more than 140 countries, and 5,400 employees. King’s has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. The College is in the top group of UK universities for research earnings and has an annual income of approximately £400 million. An investment of £500 million has been made in the redevelopment of its estate.
King’s has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, social sciences, the health sciences, natural sciences and engineering, and has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe and is home to five Medical Research Council Centres - more than any other university.
Melanie Gardner, Senior Public Relations Officer, Public Relations Department, King’s College London. Tel: 020 7848 3073; email email@example.com
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