Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin??

Posted by: -Frycek

Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 06:47 AM

Just moved this from the Totally Devoted thread on AFB where it was pretty much being ignored.

Originally Posted By: J.A.S
Article (in Polish) with the photo:
Unknown photo of Chopin on deathbed found

Photo only: Photo only

My translation of fragments of the article:

Unknown photo of Chopin on deathbed found
Władysław Żuchowski, a photographer, purchased from a private Scottish collector a dagerotype showing dying Fryderyk Chopin. Experts examine authenticity of the negative, but most of them already have doubts.
[...]
The author of the photo is Louis Auguste Bisson, a French photographer known from another, earlier picture of the pianist. The first name and surname of the famous Pole is written on an attached piece of paper.
[...]
According to Alicja Knast, curator of the Chopin Museum in Warsaw, there is no evidence that the dagerotype pictures Chopin and there is a whole market of similar false documents.

Małgorzata Grabczewska, a photography expert, Polish Library in Paris, doubts the authenticity of the dagerotype. According to her, Bisson never dated his negatives or signed them with his name. “The dagerotype is beyond doubt from the 19th century, but is it actually the deathbed photographed by Bisson?” she asked rhetorically.



Posted by: -Frycek

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 06:51 AM



Here it is without all that pesky advertising. Thanks for posting this JAS. I'm surprized all the Chopinoholics haven't been all over it today. It looks quite a bit like him. I'm sure there's a reason for that. One way to fake it would be to coif a copy of the "peaceful" death mask with an appropriate wig and do some creative posing and lighting. If it's a fake it would have to have been done in a similar way as a daguerreotype has no negative to interfere with. But who knows? According to one source some photographers did show up and were shown the door by Adolph Gutmann when they started to move Chopin's body to get it into a better light.
Posted by: stores

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 06:54 AM

At very first glance, it doesn't look to me like the Chopin (we know) of late 1849, but a much younger Chopin. Something about the image doesn't convince me, but I can't put my finger on it just yet.
Posted by: -Frycek

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 06:59 AM

It looks a lot like some of the very idealized liknesses of him around. It might be a total fake (even a photograph of a drawn image like the Cottingley fairy photographs) or it might be an actual dead guy who happened to look a lot like him, but as Stores said, younger, opportunistically misidentifed.
Posted by: Andromaque

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 07:44 AM

I would agree that it does not look like like the known photograph of Chopin, but that could be misleading. Postmortem appearance is often different. The face looks youngish, but could be 39, I imagine, though Chopin was an older looking 39.. Probably not real. Fascinating nonetheless..
Posted by: -Frycek

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 08:33 AM

Chopin did look young for his age all his adult life. Even when he was very ill, in England before his last concert, someone described him as a "frail looking young man of thirty."
Posted by: Andromaque

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 08:48 AM

I guess I am influenced by that famous photograph, where he also looks almost uncomfortable. Was it taken towards the end of his life? But obviously live accounts are more reliable.
Posted by: lilylady

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 08:59 AM

He looks 'healthy' here.

Dates? Well, if you were going to take a photo of a famous composer, you might date that one photograph if no others.

Oh, and we DO look different standing up from laying down. Try it sometime!
Posted by: tomasino

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 09:04 AM

Are there any photographs of Chopin from the side that are considered to be authentic? I don't ever recall seeing any. And if not, it seems quite a leap to say this looks like him. Even if we were viewing straight-on frontal views, the differences in lighting, contrast, and decay of very old images, makes a meaningful comparison a very dicey proposition.

Also, the aesthetic quality of the photograph fits a little too well into the mystique of Chopin and his music. As Frycek suggested above, it seems idealized--the side view, the very handsome nature of the side profile, the top lighting of the face, and the nicely done shadow molding along the cheek. It seems to me that a photographer would have had to have been given quite a bit of leeway to arrange such a shot.

All that's left to suggest that this may be Chopin is the photographer's signature and the ascribed identity of the corpse--assuming it is a corpse--a corpse that may possibly have gotten up and walked away.


Tomasino
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 01:33 PM

Originally Posted By: stores
At very first glance, it doesn't look to me like the Chopin (we know) of late 1849, but a much younger Chopin....

yes

Originally Posted By: -Frycek
It looks a lot like some of the very idealized liknesses of him around.....

yes

Originally Posted By: lilylady
He looks 'healthy' here....

yes smile
Posted by: tomasino

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 01:49 PM

This image is said to depict Frederic Chopin on his deathbed. I don't see any photographers there.

Tomasino

Posted by: -Frycek

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 02:28 PM

grin
Posted by: Andromaque

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 02:32 PM

Originally Posted By: tomasino
This image is said to depict Frederic Chopin on his deathbed. I don't see any photographers there.

Tomasino





The photographer was obviously taking that picture!!

Who is atthe piano?
Posted by: -Frycek

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 02:40 PM

That's supposed to be Delphina Potocka, a Polish countess, an old friend, and very possibly an old flame, who actually did come to see him and sang for him at his request, though I doubt very seriously that she was wearing Grecian robes at the time. She had to stop midway as Chopin was too overcome with sadness for her to continue. That engraving dates from something like the 1880's. (And there definitely wasn't a nun.)

These sketchs are the most authentic perimortem depictions of Chopin other than the death mask. It was drawn by Chopin's friend artist Teofil Kwiatkowski who was there and later painted several variations of the actual death bed for various friends of Chopin.





Posted by: lilylady

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 02:57 PM

He would have apparently changed hair styles while in recline

(flipped)

Posted by: Palindrome

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 04:16 PM

Originally Posted By: -Frycek
One way to fake it would be to coif a copy of the "peaceful" death mask


There's a death mask?

Originally Posted By: lilylady
...we DO look different standing up from laying down....


GRAMMAR POLICE!!! LYING down.
Posted by: stores

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 04:24 PM

Originally Posted By: Palindrome

There's a death mask?



Yes. There are two, in fact. One most people have seen and one most haven't. (I'd be willing to bet that Frycek has photos of them).
It's truly an interesting daguerreotype, but I don't at all believe it's Chopin.
Posted by: Palindrome

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 04:30 PM

I should have searched before asking:

Posted by: ChopinAddict

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 04:35 PM

The nose looks straighter (maybe this is what some members mean with "idealized"), but as for his age, I think he could be 39... Unfortunately though, Chopin was very sick when he died and in reality he looked older...
I don't think it is him, but I cannot exclude it 100%.
Posted by: -Frycek

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 04:39 PM

Originally Posted By: stores
Originally Posted By: Palindrome

There's a death mask?



Yes. There are two, in fact. One most people have seen and one most haven't. (I'd be willing to bet that Frycek has photos of them).
It's truly an interesting daguerreotype, but I don't at all believe it's Chopin.


Actually, there were three death masks made but only the one depicted above is fit for family viewing. (He looks way too dead in the other two.) (Anyone interested, PM me if you like.
Posted by: stores

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 05:02 PM

Originally Posted By: -Frycek
Originally Posted By: stores
Originally Posted By: Palindrome

There's a death mask?



Yes. There are two, in fact. One most people have seen and one most haven't. (I'd be willing to bet that Frycek has photos of them).
It's truly an interesting daguerreotype, but I don't at all believe it's Chopin.


Actually, there were three death masks made but only the one depicted above is fit for family viewing. (He looks way too dead in the other two.) PM me if you like.


Aha!!! I wasn't aware that there were three! I knew of two (and have seen the PG version as well as one of the "too dead"), but not a third. PM on it's way.
Posted by: lilylady

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 05:27 PM

Now I lay me down to sleep -

I always get those confused, P!

And worse.
Posted by: -Frycek

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 06:06 PM

Originally Posted By: lilylady
Now I lay me down to sleep -

I always get those confused, P!

And worse.


And then there are chickens - - -
Posted by: Lingyis

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 06:23 PM

i was checking to make sure it isn't april 1st...
Posted by: Pogorelich.

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 07:40 PM

Originally Posted By: stores
Aha!!! I wasn't aware that there were three! I knew of two (and have seen the PG version as well as one of the "too dead"), but not a third. PM on it's way.


"Its"!

This looks like a painting to me, not a photograph..
Posted by: -Frycek

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 07:45 PM

Could be a photograph of a painting
Posted by: stores

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 08:03 PM

Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
Originally Posted By: stores
Aha!!! I wasn't aware that there were three! I knew of two (and have seen the PG version as well as one of the "too dead"), but not a third. PM on it's way.


"Its"!

This looks like a painting to me, not a photograph..


blush
Posted by: Andromaque

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 08:59 PM

Oh Frycek,
you MUST post the pictures. or you are going to have to PM half the membership, myself included!
Posted by: tomasino

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/12/11 09:11 PM

It's not Chopin by a nose.

The slightly raised nose bridge of the guy in the photograph can't even hold a candle to Chopin's Roman Nose, as shown in the desk mask. That clinches it for me. If we need go further, the death mask also shows Chopin as having somewhat heavier lips, particularly the lower lip, and not quite as much chin as the guy in the photograph. The Kwiatowski drawings--and I take it on Frycek's good authority that Kwiatowski was actually there--also show a pronounced Roman Nose.

Painting or photograph? It looks like a photograph to me, but I'm not at all convinced it's a Daguerreotype. I've examined a good many, and, in general, they're remarkably stable, and don't often show extreme fading or color shifting, such as the extreme shift to blue in several large areas of highlight in the image.

The photo has an unusual shape, and it is quite unusual for a Daguerreotype, or any photograph up until the last few decades, to be cropped in this manner. It might be very telling to see what was cropped out of the image, perhaps by the photographer or the publication's editor. It would also be interesting to know more about what was in the Polish language article accompanying the photograph.

Tomasino
Posted by: Batuhan

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/13/11 03:22 AM

Not look like Chopin his face compeletly different from the photo of 1849 but this is very fascinating
Posted by: lilylady

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/13/11 05:30 AM

Originally Posted By: tomasino
It's not Chopin by a nose.

It would also be interesting to know more about what was in the Polish language article accompanying the photograph.

Tomasino


I clicked on the bar that asks for TRANSLATE to ? (english) on google chrome. If you are not using chrome, cut and paste the words to TRANSLATE when you google translate and come up with a program.
Posted by: -Frycek

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/13/11 07:11 AM

Disclaimer and a mystery solved. Andromaque got me wondering again about the Hunterian death mask, the alleged third mask of Chopin. A friend "discovered" it a couple of years ago when the Hunterian had a featured death mask exhibit. Of course I checked the exhibit out and copied the image. But I've never found any reference to it since. Suddenly, I got very suspicious. I got to searching "death masks" in Googles image search. The mask in question, apparently mislabelled at the time (at least in the online version of the exhibit )as that of Chopin is of one William Cullen. Now, in hindsight it's not so easy to see how the mistake was made though the bronze Chopin mask was not included in the online exhibit. It's even harder to understand how I was fooled for so long. I suppose I'm just one of those people who believe what I'm told and see what I want to see. I apologize profusely for pertetuating the error. The Hunterian does have a mask of Chopin, the familiar one cast in bronze, as well as the hand. So there really are only two. And now I'll slink off to my piano.

The Cullen death mask
Posted by: apple*

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/13/11 08:00 AM

Play Chopin Frycek.. you are a deep well of information.. absolutely no need to apologize..

I've spent this early morning looking at deathmasks.. really fascinating.. so beautiful yet sad.

I found Chopin's beautiful hands... so thank you.



Posted by: Batuhan

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/13/11 09:33 AM

Originally Posted By: -Frycek
Disclaimer and a mystery solved. Andromaque got me wondering again about the Hunterian death mask, the alleged third mask of Chopin. A friend "discovered" it a couple of years ago when the Hunterian had a featured death mask exhibit. Of course I checked the exhibit out and copied the image. But I've never found any reference to it since. Suddenly, I got very suspicious. I got to searching "death masks" in Googles image search. The mask in question, apparently mislabelled at the time (at least in the online version of the exhibit )as that of Chopin is of one William Cullen. Now, in hindsight it's not so easy to see how the mistake was made though the bronze Chopin mask was not included in the online exhibit. It's even harder to understand how I was fooled for so long. I suppose I'm just one of those people who believe what I'm told and see what I want to see. I apologize profusely for pertetuating the error. The Hunterian does have a mask of Chopin, the familiar one cast in bronze, as well as the hand. So there really are only two. And now I'll slink off to my piano.

The Cullen death mask


So its Chopin or not ?
Posted by: -Frycek

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/13/11 09:38 AM


This one is Chopin. It's the first mask that Clesinger cast. It upset Chopin's sister so much that Clesinger adjusted Chopin's mouth, cast it again, added the sculpted hair and came up with the mask we are all familiar with.


This one isn't. This is the death mask of someone named William Cullen which was mislabelled as "Chopin" in the Hunterian Museum's death mask exhibit a few years ago. Whoever put together the online version of the exhibition made the initial error and I perpetuated it. I'm actually quite relieved it isn't Chopin. He deserved better.

Posted by: Elene

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/13/11 08:42 PM

I don't think you should feel bad, Frycek. The Cullen face is so distorted it must have been unrecognizable (and upsetting) to his closest relatives. The nose looks like it could have been Chopin's. I had wondered where in the world that mask could have come from, since there seems to be no record of a third try, but if a museum curator appeared to be telling us that it was for real, we couldn't be expected to know that was wrong.

I get the impression (oh, no, bad unintentional pun!) that it isn't easy to make a plaster cast of the face without considerable distortion. The better attempt at Chopin's mask has some distortion as well, but not enough to be very bothersome. I'll have to ask my friend who used to make life masks about these issues.

By the way, if anyone ever comes across a source for a cast of Chopin's left hand, as posted by apple* above (it's only the left, two views of it), please let me know! I've been searching for years, and the best I've ever found was a small-scale version that was being sold at the competition in Warsaw last fall. Why anyone bothered to sculpt a small hand, rather than simply cast the original again, was a mystery to me.

Elene
Posted by: Deleted account

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/14/11 03:59 PM

I'm sorry, but this picture doesn't look a anything like Chopin. I have a life size copy of his death mask and two extremely good reproductions of the two known photographs of Chopin. In this supposed death bed photograph of Chopin the nose is a different shape, the chin is a different shape, the lips are non existent, compared with his death mask. It looks more like all the inauthentic images of Chopin that have appeared over the years (which makes it even more likely to show it's a poor attempt at forgery). Plus there was no mention by anyone present at Chopin's death of a photographer being there, not even by Clesinger, who molded the death mask after Chopin's death. There is certainly mention of Chopin having to get into the light for a photograph, but he was still alive then! Like everyone I would so much love this to be a new photograph and would be only too happy to eat my words, but it has all the hallmarks of a poor forgery attempt. And there are other worrying signs, such as a signature by the photographer L.A. Bisson, even though Bisson never normally signed his pictures, and the coincidence that it's supposedly Bisson who took this picture, the one photographer we happen to know took a picture of Chopin. What a coincidence! To me this smacks of very amateurish forgery, I'm sorry to say.
Posted by: Deleted account

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/14/11 04:16 PM

Frycek,

I'd love to know what is the source of your information on this death mask. It bears no physical resemblance to Chopin (even allowing for the distorted features) nor does it bear any resemblance to the two photographs of Chopin. The 'well known' Chopin death mask bears a striking resemblance to both photographs of Chopin! I know that it was reported that immediately after Chopin's death the muscles in his face relaxed and he looked extremely youthful (as you would expect after death), which doesn't back up the theory that this distorted mask is of Chopin. And I'd love to know from where the description comes of Ludwika's distress over the appearance of Chopin's death mask and the subsequent reworking by Clesinger. My gut tells me this is another forgery/misidentification but I certainly would like to know more about the sources of these stories before I rush to judgement.

N.B. my previous comment was referring to the purported death bed photograph that surfaced just recently, just in case there was some confusion in my posts!
Posted by: Elene

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/14/11 04:39 PM

The description of the messed-up death mask and Ludwika's reaction can be found in Benita Eisler's book Chopin's Funeral, I believe.

I don't think anyone here is trying to say that the supposed deathbed daguerrotype is for real.

Elene
Posted by: -Frycek

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/14/11 07:36 PM

Benita Eisler, Chopin's Funeral, page 9 and page 200
Posted by: Deleted account

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/15/11 10:56 PM

Elene,

Thanks for your reply. Re the death mask, I'm familiar with the book you mention, which contains many factual errors and is not a book I would recommend. I was actually looking for a more factual and verifiable source. I didn't mention in my original message but another factor that weighs heavily against the story of Clesinger re-modelling the death mask is the collection of deathbed drawings of Chopin by Kwiatkowski (also mentioned by Frycek earlier in this thread). Kwiatkowski was drawing the real person on October 18th, and not Clesinger's death mask. Clesinger would have had to 'rearrange' the face of the real Chopin, not just his death mask, if these sketches are accurate and the 'Clesinger death mask remodelling' story is true. Since clearly BOTH can't be true I'm inclined to stick with my belief that the 'distorted' death mask of Chopin is either NOT Chopin or simply a very bad (i.e. inaccurate) first attempt at the death mask (for example it's clear the nose got unnaturally bent in the modelling).

Does anyone have a side view photograph of the supposed 'first' Clesinger Chopin death mask? That could certainly help clear up any question about it's authenticity and I will be very happy (even excited) to eat my own words!

As to the highly questionable daguerreotype purported to be of Chopin on his death bed, I was initially responding to Frycek's comment "It looks quite a bit like him" because in my view it looked nothing like Chopin (based on authenticated images of the composer). However Frycek did later say "It looks a lot like some of the very idealized liknesses of him around" with which I would agree, but since those 'idealized likenesses' also don't look anything like Chopin that immediately made me suspicious of it's authenticity (together with the fact that the owner refused to name his source!).

I'm sure we all wish there were more authentic images of Chopin. After all, there are some very clear photographs of both Liszt and George Sand taken during Chopin's lifetime. The trouble is Chopin was not interested in preserving his image for posterity and were're lucky to have what we have! Given the photographic methods of the time it would be impossible to have a photograph of Chopin smiling for example, but just imagine it (after all, people who don't know Chopin so well don't realise he had a tremendous sense of fun too!).
Posted by: Brandon_W_T

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/15/11 11:08 PM

Those death mask pictures are HUGE!

Got a little jump when they popped up!
Posted by: Deleted account

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/15/11 11:23 PM

Thanks, Frycek, for the information. As I mentioned in my reply to Elene's comment I was already aware of this book, which I find has too many factual errors to be a trustworthy source. Do you by any chance have a photograph of the side view of this supposed 'first attempt' death mask? That could certainly make things clearer, though it still wouldn't authenticate the story concerning Ludwika's reaction to the death mask. Like I said to Elene, I'd be so happy (excited even!) to eat my words if my current view can be corrected.
Posted by: -Frycek

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/16/11 06:07 AM

I concede. Fresh from the humiliation of the William Cullen mask fiasco, I have neither the heart nor credibility to argue the matter, especially has you have already dismissed my source, a work that I have neither the resources to verify nor any particular desire to defend.

As for myself, I've discovered time and again that one can trust almost nothing of what one reads about Chopin. And having also discovered with great bitterness that I lack the critical faculty, scholarly background or perhaps clairvoyance necessary to detect the lies, whatever small part I've played here is done.
Posted by: Jeff Kallberg

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/16/11 11:46 PM

Originally Posted By: JackGibbons
Elene,

Thanks for your reply. Re the death mask, I'm familiar with the book you mention, which contains many factual errors and is not a book I would recommend. I was actually looking for a more factual and verifiable source. I didn't mention in my original message but another factor that weighs heavily against the story of Clesinger re-modelling the death mask is the collection of deathbed drawings of Chopin by Kwiatkowski (also mentioned by Frycek earlier in this thread). Kwiatkowski was drawing the real person on October 18th, and not Clesinger's death mask. Clesinger would have had to 'rearrange' the face of the real Chopin, not just his death mask, if these sketches are accurate and the 'Clesinger death mask remodelling' story is true. Since clearly BOTH can't be true I'm inclined to stick with my belief that the 'distorted' death mask of Chopin is either NOT Chopin or simply a very bad (i.e. inaccurate) first attempt at the death mask (for example it's clear the nose got unnaturally bent in the modelling).

Does anyone have a side view photograph of the supposed 'first' Clesinger Chopin death mask? That could certainly help clear up any question about it's authenticity and I will be very happy (even excited) to eat my own words!

As to the highly questionable daguerreotype purported to be of Chopin on his death bed, I was initially responding to Frycek's comment "It looks quite a bit like him" because in my view it looked nothing like Chopin (based on authenticated images of the composer). However Frycek did later say "It looks a lot like some of the very idealized liknesses of him around" with which I would agree, but since those 'idealized likenesses' also don't look anything like Chopin that immediately made me suspicious of it's authenticity (together with the fact that the owner refused to name his source!).



Side view photographs of the first version of the Clesinger Chopin death mask may be found in Ernst Burger, Frederic Chopin: Eine Lebenschronik in Bildern und Dokumenten (Munich: Hirmer, 1990), p. 340 (the side views are compared with the retouched versions on p. 341). I've also seen somewhere in the Polish literature a discussion of the various versions of the death mask, but I don't have time at the moment to track this down. The early version posted above is generally accepted as authentic by Chopin scholars - subject to correction, as always!

Jeff Kallberg
Posted by: Elene

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/17/11 03:19 AM

Again, Dr. Jeff saves the day! I was hoping you might have some information to clarify this mask business. The source you cited is not one that most of us would have access to, it seems. I had certainly never come across a side-view picture of the distorted "first" mask, and was about to tell Jack that there didn't seem to be any around.

(Jack, I don't understand why you would berate Frycek for failing to have information that she couldn't possibly have had. She has been careful and scholarly over the years, and is not given to making unsupported or wild statements about historical matters. None of us who are not professional musicologists had access to any more information about that mask than was given in Eisler's book-- questionable as it is-- as far as I know. )

I've started to wonder why that failed mask was kept at all. Why didn't they just destroy it? Hmm.

By the way, Eisler uses only a photo of that mask in her book Chopin's Funeral, not a photo of the more successful one. I think it's in keeping with the way she accents the negative throughout the book, showing everyone in the worst possible light much of the time. (At least that was how the book struck me.)

If I remember correctly, and I may not, Eisler also implied that the "good" mask was more a sculpture than an accurate cast of Chopin's face, that after the first attempt came out so badly, Clesinger sculpted a better mask. I'll have to look that up-- I'm also not sure if I've seen the same idea somewhere else. However, I definitely accept the second mask, the one that so many of us own copies of, as the real thing. Some aspects of it may possibly have been tweaked, but I can clearly feel the landmarks in the skull that I would use to find acupuncture points. My physical therapist friend who does more cranial work than I do was not only convinced but was thoroughly freaked out when she saw and felt those details in the bone structure. It was just too much like touching an actual corpse for her taste.

And there is still a degree of distortion in that mask, too, especially in the slightly squished nose. I guess the weight of plaster will do that. I haven't gotten around to asking my friend who used to make life masks about how one deals with this.

I would like to suggest that, since this has become a fairly substantial discussion, we meet back at the "Just for those totally devoted to Chopin" thread, where other people are more likely to find this stuff.

Elene
Posted by: ChopinAddict

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/17/11 04:09 AM

I would love to see the side-view photographs in Ernst Burger's book. Thank you, Dr. Jeff, for referring us to it. I have a new book on my wish list. smile
Posted by: Deleted account

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/20/11 04:36 AM

Thanks for that information. I look forward to seeing those pictures. I must say I still find it hard to see a physical likeness to Chopin in this 'first' mask, (i.e. as compared with the photographs) so am hoping these additional pictures will resolve my query.

I wish I could share your confidence in 'Chopin scholars' but alas I've read so much nonsense about Chopin from so-called scholars over the years I'm afraid the very mention of the phrase "Chopin scholars' makes me see red! However the beneficial effect of my pessimism is that when good scholarship turns up something wonderful I am usually elated!

Thanks again for the information and best wishes,

Jack
Posted by: Deleted account

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/20/11 05:00 AM

Dear Frycek,

If, as Elene suggests, you felt under attack from my queries I profusely apologise. Like you I am just always keenly looking for the truth when it comes to Chopin, a subject I am as passionate about as everyone else here! And as you speak here with great knowledge I was turning to you earnestly for an answer to my conundrum - apologies again if I came on too strong! Though Jeff Kalberg has kindly supplied a reference which I am eager to follow up, once again it is only a recent publication and not a factual source, so may still not prove conclusive. So I hope you will continue your search for the truth. When so much that is written about Chopin is untrustworthy, as you so rightly say, the instincts of all of us, 'scholars' or not (and I have a particular aversion to that much abused word!) become even more valid. Best wishes, Jack
Posted by: Deleted account

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/20/11 06:01 AM

Elene,

Perhaps I came on too strong - like everybody here I am so passionate at finding the truth that I may forget myself. Incidentally Jeff Kallberg's kind intervention may still not resolve this conundrum, as it's merely another recent publication as opposed to a factual source but I am looking forward to seeing the side-view photographs which should make everything very clear. Unless someone else here has access to this work and can reproduce the pictures I will try to upload the images to this forum as soon as I have them.

I agree with your implication that Eisler is barking up the wrong tree by suggesting that the 'second' mask was more a sculpture. For a start Clesinger was not that good a sculptor (!), and when you compare this commonly known death mask of Chopin with his photographs the resemblance is blatant (which cannot be said of the 'first' mask, judging from the one photograph reproduced in Eisler). But I have seen variations in the various reproductions of the well-known death mask (e.g. where the surface has been over polished etc.) so it is true that some reproductions are more 'sculpted' than others. It seems odd to me that the 'first' death mask has not been reproduced more widely if (as Jeff Kallberg suggests) it is generally seen as authentic. It was a similar situation with the 1846 photograph (or daguerreotype) of Chopin, that no one seemed interested in until recently, despite it's occasional publication over the years (it's not as though there is an abundance of photographs of Chopin after all!).

Best wishes, Jack
Posted by: stores

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/20/11 06:17 AM

Originally Posted By: JackGibbons


I wish I could share your confidence in 'Chopin scholars' but alas I've read so much nonsense about Chopin from so-called scholars over the years I'm afraid the very mention of the phrase "Chopin scholars' makes me see red!


Gee, this sure sounds familiar. Let me say something similar, however, and there will be those waiting to lambaste me.
Posted by: stores

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/20/11 06:20 AM

Originally Posted By: JackGibbons
a similar situation with the 1846 photograph (or daguerreotype) of Chopin, that no one seemed interested in until recently, despite it's occasional publication over the years


Can we say with a certainty that the daguerreotype in question is, indeed, of Chopin? I don't believe so, nor do I believe at all that it is Fred, himself.
Posted by: Elene

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/21/11 02:49 PM

I would speculate that we don't see that "failed" death mask pictured in books very often because it is ugly and disturbing and we don't want to think of Chopin that way-- as well as because it didn't give an accurate portrayal of his face. It was interesting to note that Eisler uses only that one and not the "good" one in her book; again, she seems to want to bring out the worst in everything and everyone.

The 1846 image is so unclear that I don't think we can definitively say whether it is Chopin-- which we probably couldn't do without knowing its exact provenance anyway, since it could possibly just be someone who looked an awful lot like him. (I don't know anything about where it's supposed to have come from, and if anyone has information, I hope you'll share it.) However, that daguerrotype seems evocative of the fuzziness and uncertainty that seems to affect the greater part of what we know about Chopin, or think we know. It's like looking at the subject through a veil. I'm so accustomed to so much about Chopin existing in a sort of quantum uncertainty state, a smear of possibilities rather than pinned-down facts, that I hardly notice it anymore. But I'd sure rather have hard facts when I can get them.

I saw something in a comment (author unknown, so I can't credit him) to an article on a controversial issue in astronomy yesterday that applies to this situation fairly well, though it was completely unrelated to our subject:

"In my experience as an astronomer (and an ignorant schoolboy before that), it takes an educated scientist to fully appreciate the scientific method. A layman has no idea of how often mistakes are made, miscalculations are overlooked, datasets are filtered to support a popular hypothesis and how many conclusions are jumped to out of mere enthusiasm. This skeptical attitude tends to frustrate those who do not seek the actual truth, but the truth they would like to find. Our present day science would however be a mishmash of complete nonsense if scientists did not demand absolute proof for any claim. And since nothing is ever completely proven, science will always retain its skeptical outlook on all claims and theories, if only to get closer to the unknowable truth."

I guess that's the best we can do, to try to "get closer to the unknowable truth." I'm still not sure why we care so much about knowing the truth about this particular man, but we do, and we keep trying.

Our remoteness from most primary sources is a constant frustration.

Elene
Posted by: Deleted account

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/21/11 08:10 PM

I like your quote (re astronomy), and share your frustration of our remoteness from primary sources too. And yes, information on the 2nd photograph/daguerreotype of Chopin seems hard to come by. I see 'stores' (and many others) still doubt the authenticity of this 2nd Chopin photographic image, and it's true my own reaction, when I first saw this 2nd photograph back in 1990, was that I thought it didn't look like Chopin (as I imagined him to look). But over the years, looking more carefully at this image and comparing it with other images, I have come to realise just how closely the face fits with the more authenticated images (e.g. the 1847 Winterhalter drawings which Chopin himself thought were good likenesses, as opposed to the famous 1838 Delacroix portrait, a wonderful painting but inaccurate physically). There's also a nervous tension in this 1846/47 daguerreotype which you rarely see in people, which for me gives the picture some authenticity (and of course there's the unique curled hair style, identical to the more famous Chopin photograph and to the Winterhalter drawings etc., and the nose, mouth, and eyelids are also very close to other reliable images and descriptions). All the above, put together in a single image, makes a striking case for this image's authenticity. Having said all that it would be nice, like you say, if the Chopin Museum, or whoever owns the earliest copy of this photograph, could supply more information on it's history/provenance. At least when we come to his music we know more about the man than many people who actually knew him in person might have known! We should be so thankful and fortunate that music is so capable of conveying, over a century later, the most intimate thoughts and emotions of such a profound person!

Posted by: Deleted account

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/22/11 08:48 AM

I've placed these three profiles alongside each other. Do they look similar?
left: the purported Clesinger first attempt death mask side view;
centre: the 1846 daguerreotype;
right: the more well known Clesinger death mask.

Curious to get people's reactions.

Posted by: Batuhan

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/22/11 10:02 AM

Originally Posted By: JackGibbons
I like your quote (re astronomy), and share your frustration of our remoteness from primary sources too. And yes, information on the 2nd photograph/daguerreotype of Chopin seems hard to come by. I see 'stores' (and many others) still doubt the authenticity of this 2nd Chopin photographic image, and it's true my own reaction, when I first saw this 2nd photograph back in 1990, was that I thought it didn't look like Chopin (as I imagined him to look). But over the years, looking more carefully at this image and comparing it with other images, I have come to realise just how closely the face fits with the more authenticated images (e.g. the 1847 Winterhalter drawings which Chopin himself thought were good likenesses, as opposed to the famous 1838 Delacroix portrait, a wonderful painting but inaccurate physically). There's also a nervous tension in this 1846/47 daguerreotype which you rarely see in people, which for me gives the picture some authenticity (and of course there's the unique curled hair style, identical to the more famous Chopin photograph and to the Winterhalter drawings etc., and the nose, mouth, and eyelids are also very close to other reliable images and descriptions). All the above, put together in a single image, makes a striking case for this image's authenticity. Having said all that it would be nice, like you say, if the Chopin Museum, or whoever owns the earliest copy of this photograph, could supply more information on it's history/provenance. At least when we come to his music we know more about the man than many people who actually knew him in person might have known! We should be so thankful and fortunate that music is so capable of conveying, over a century later, the most intimate thoughts and emotions of such a profound person!



This photograph of Chopin is very different from 1849
photograph even compeletly different like 2 distinct person in 1849 photo Chopin look more handsome and more charismatic and his nose more properly.
Posted by: Deleted account

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/22/11 10:31 AM

Originally Posted By: Batuhan
This photograph of Chopin is very different from 1849 photograph even compeletly different like 2 distinct person in 1849 photo Chopin look more handsome and more charismatic and his nose more properly.

I agree that the 1849 photograph is extraordinary, and as I said, I myself was sceptical at first of this 2nd photographic image. But there are many superficial physical likenesses not only between the 1846 and 1849 pictures but also with the 1847 Winterhalter drawings. And after all, who else could look like this (not as silly a thought as you might think: it's a fairly distinctive look - and hair cut! - though I know it's hard to see his expression in such a deteriorated image)? I'm just suggesting that people keep an open mind. I am busy trying to open my own mind right now into accepting that the first death mask of Clesinger could be authentic, having for years denied it. Sometimes we have a fixed idea in our heads that can be hard to dislodge when something different to our expectations comes along.
Posted by: Batuhan

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/22/11 12:02 PM

Originally Posted By: JackGibbons
Originally Posted By: Batuhan
This photograph of Chopin is very different from 1849 photograph even compeletly different like 2 distinct person in 1849 photo Chopin look more handsome and more charismatic and his nose more properly.

I agree that the 1849 photograph is extraordinary, and as I said, I myself was sceptical at first of this 2nd photographic image. But there are many superficial physical likenesses not only between the 1846 and 1849 pictures but also with the 1847 Winterhalter drawings. And after all, who else could look like this (not as silly a thought as you might think: it's a fairly distinctive look - and hair cut! - though I know it's hard to see his expression in such a deteriorated image)? I'm just suggesting that people keep an open mind. I am busy trying to open my own mind right now into accepting that the first death mask of Clesinger could be authentic, having for years denied it. Sometimes we have a fixed idea in our heads that can be hard to dislodge when something different to our expectations comes along.


Also the 3 pictures at the above you indicated like 3 different person first one look like an death mask of an old at least 70 years old man second one indeed not look like Chopin in 1849 and the third one i think the third one very close to his 1849 photo and probably the most right one.
Posted by: Elene

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/22/11 01:26 PM

Fascinating to see the side view of that first mask! Thanks, Jack-- how did you find the image to post? It still looks to me like it's the same bone structure as the better mask, but with the jaw pushed back and the mouth badly squished. Rather the way that poor Cullen's mouth got messed up, but fortunately less grotesque.

The more I look at that 1846 daguerreotype, the more I think it must be Really Him. Especially the small, thin body and the overall delicacy.

When I tried to find out something more about that image, I ended up with what's been previously posted at PW, and at Jack's blog. A circular path that led to no more than what's already been said here. I am hoping that I can find more at Polish sites, perhaps at the museum where the daguerreotype lives, but I don't have time to try to dig into that just now. (I can read just enough Polish to be dangerous, and otherwise can get translations.)

I noticed that one of the comments on Jack's blog post from The Birthday last year was a guy who's helped to edit the Wikipedia entry on Chopin. I always wondered who those people were! And I feel guilty for not contributing to the effort-- and not knowing how. I checked the Wiki page, and unless I am misremembering what it used to be like (very possible), it seemed to me that it has improved since the last time I looked, and I learned a few new facts. There are still some errors, though. What does one do about that, I wonder?

BTW, someone said that Clesinger wasn't a very good sculptor-- I disagree. Have you seen his bust of George Sand, or his self-portrait bust? They're both at the Musee de la Vie Romantique in Paris, and they are formidable. Then there is the gorgeous head of Chopin based on the death mask-- my favorite of all Chopin portraits. I think most likely he could have done quite well in his career if it hadn't been for the irresponsibility, substance abuse, general meanness, etc.

Elene

Posted by: Deleted account

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/22/11 03:53 PM

Elene, I'm afraid it was me that said that Clesinger wasn't a great sculptor - sorry! To be fair I have seen some great things he did, but I hate to say it, I never liked the bust he did of Chopin, though presumably that's the one that is your favourite so I'm already beginning to look at it with kinder eyes! (I've added it below). In the past every time I compared it with the death mask it only emphasized the death mask's authenticity and told me that Clesinger couldn't have been able to carve such an accurate death mask from imagination (as Eisler has suggested). Of course I'm busy eating humble pie today as I try to grapple with the idea that the 'first' death mask may be authentic so I better watch what I say! I'm still not 100% convinced yet about the first mask and would love to learn more about the evidence supporting it's claim. Even if it is authentic it might still simply be a botched first attempt, as opposed to an accurate depiction of Chopin's suffering. Interestingly, Clesinger's bust does look quite like the 1846 daguerreotype. It's like a jigsaw, when one piece fits it seems to open up other pieces that didn't seem to fit before. I wonder if I have been as guilty as others in having a certain 'image' of Chopin's appearance in my head that may not be as accurate as I thought. You asked earlier why do we care so much? But I remember the excitement when I first saw moving images of Gershwin and could see the person as a living and vital human being. I would give anything to go back in time and meet, see, hear Chopin! Seeing good still images is amazing, but seeing someone move - you can tell a lot about a person from the way they move, walk, laugh, don't you think? Oh well - time to talk to my psychiatrist!

Jack

Posted by: Elene

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/22/11 08:01 PM

Jack, that isn't the bust I was talking about by Clésinger. I've seen it before (or at least a similar one) from a different angle; he seems to have added quite a bit of fat to Chopin's face here. I've never seen it in a front view so it's nice at least to have the opportunity.

I was thinking of this one...



... which I was told was done by Clésinger, but at the moment I'm not sure I'm sure of anything!

And if all these images aren't enough (and they aren't!), you can always check out Sim Chopin:
http://www.modthesims.info/d/195158

Elene
Posted by: Deleted account

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/23/11 04:50 PM

Originally Posted By: Elene
Jack, that isn't the bust I was talking about by Clésinger. I've seen it before (or at least a similar one) from a different angle; he seems to have added quite a bit of fat to Chopin's face here. I've never seen it in a front view so it's nice at least to have the opportunity.

I was thinking of this one...



... which I was told was done by Clésinger, but at the moment I'm not sure I'm sure of anything!

And if all these images aren't enough (and they aren't!), you can always check out Sim Chopin:
http://www.modthesims.info/d/195158

Elene



That's a relief as I never liked the other one! Yes I forgot about this one. It's wonderful and obviously very closely copied from the death mask, as opposed to from imagination. The hidden smile you mention is there, and in fact I sometimes see a trace of that on the death mask itself in certain directions. It's clearly a great piece of sculpting, assuming it's Clesinger!

What's interesting is when you put all these images together, including the two photographic images you begin to get a pretty good idea of his real appearance. But then how did his face move? Clearly it was very mobile (all those brilliant impersonations he could do) and since so many artists made him look quite different my guess is his face was changing all the time. Alas that is something we will just have to continue to imagine.

I would still like to learn more about that first death mask (assuming it's Chopin). (By the way I found the image through google quite easily! - tourist shots from Crakow and Warsaw). Could Chopin's breathing difficulties really have caused his mouth to cave in like that or was that simply damage caused by Clesinger as he made the mask after Chopin's death? Also the distance from the nose to the mouth (on this first death mask) looks far greater than in the photographs and 2nd death mask. The nose looks as though it could be Chopin's though it's not exactly the same shape as the 2nd mask. Have you ever read where this mask came from, other than in Eisler's book? Perhaps Jeff Kallberg could share some light here. I first heard about this 'first' death mask in the early 1980s but don't know much about its provenance.

Jack
Posted by: Jeff Kallberg

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/23/11 08:49 PM

So I've got a bit too much on my plate at present to sort all this out, but I can point Polish readers to a couple good articles about the death mask and the daguerreotype(s). First is a very thorough account of the various versions of the death mask, including the first version reproduced in this thread:

Czesław Sielużycki, “Prace Chopinowskie rzeźbiarza Jean-Baptiste-Auguste Clésinger: Studium dokumentacyjne i porównawcze,” Rocznik Chopinowski 16 (1984): 119-151

He's quite convincing on the authenticity of the first version.

And for recent research on the daguerreotype, see:

Małgorzata Maria Grabczewska, “Powstanie i historia dagerotypowych wizerunków Fryderyka Chopina: Nowe ustalenia,” Muzyka 53 (2008): 75-86

Jeff Kallberg
Posted by: ChopinAddict

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/23/11 09:04 PM

I love the bust posted by Elene - so peaceful, so beautiful: truly Chopin...
Posted by: Elene

Re: Postmortem Daguerreotype of Chopin?? - 03/24/11 12:55 AM

I haven't had any luck tracking down the articles Jeff mentioned, except for brief descriptions of them, but here is a page from the Bibliotheque Polonaise in Paris that has yet another portrait I'd never seen before:

http://www.bibliotheque-polonaise-paris-shlp.fr/index.php?id_page=20461

I also came across a play someone was putting on in Krakow, "Chopin vs. Szopen"-- about the real man having to come to terms with the national icon. A fascinating concept since they are not really the same, and the actual man may well find the legendary one a bit irritating! The article about it pointed out that we don't really know what he looked like.

Well, we do more or less, if we kind of put all the images together superimposed in our minds.

Elene