Sunday, June 20, 2010

The old lady on the left

This is old news, but I only just now found it. I was wandering around the Internet, and I found this photograph supposedly of Mozart's widow, Konstanze. The picture was found in some town in Bavaria.

Stanzi-Marini, as Mozart used to call her, is the one at the far left.

The BBC News ran the photo when the find was announced, back in 2006.

It is funny, all the portraits we are used to seeing of Konstanze date from when she was younger, and she is wreathed in such enchantment in our eyes. She was married to Mozart! And biographers can say whatever they want about Mozart, about how he was short and he had a big nose, whatever -- he will always be seen as this kind of erotic figure. From what I observe there are two composers who seem to get all the girls even now that they have been dead a million years. Mozart is one and Chopin is the other.

So Konstanze is this object of wonder and envy and, sometimes, derision. And now here she is, just an old German woman. She looks like my great-grandmother who my mother tells me used to sit in a corner of the kitchen praying the Rosary in German. That is all my mother remembers her grandmother doing.

A Web log in the Palm Beach Post that was on top of things back then more than I was -- well, I was not keeping a Web log then -- touched on something I have felt too, how there is something magical about a photograph. It gives you this immediacy you do not get from portraits. I feel thrilled when I see photos of Schumann, or Brahms. Now here is this ancient daguerreotype that ties us with Mozart's era. Part of the magic is that it makes you realize that era was not so long ago.

The Web logger, Greg Stepanich, also chronicles the controversy surrounding the photo. Some people think it is really Konstanze and some do not.

I will say this, it looks like Konstanze to me.

Pretty cool.

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