The Playgoer: Photo of the Day (the Constanze Mozart hoax)

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Photo of the Day (the Constanze Mozart hoax)


CORRECTION: Playgoer duped! How embarassing.... Or rather it should be the BBC who's embarassed. Thanks to George for directing us in Comments to this site that exposes the misattribution, or, outright fraud of this claim. In short, the woman on the left apparent did NOT fuck Mozart after all.

A quoted musicologist (and apparently amateur photographer) sets things straight:

For decades it has been known as a hoax among Mozart experts. There are no outdoor photographs of groups of people dating from 1840, because the lenses invented by Joseph Petzval, which were to make such portraits possible, were not available yet. It was simply not possible in 1840 to take sharp outdoor pictures of people as long as the necessary exposure time still amounted to about three minutes. The first outdoor portraits of human beings originate from the 1850s and the picture in question definitely looks like an amateur snapshot from the 1870s.
Anyway, I'll leave the post up. Because Playgoer doesn't do cover-ups. And because maybe this would be a valid reaction if this was a photo of someone who was intimate with Mozart. Constanze did indeed live until 1842, so she could've been snapped. The image would just have been of lesser quality.
As I always say, never believe anything you read on the internet.

The BBC reports on this incredible find of an 1840 photo of Constanze Mozart--yes, Mozart's widow.

To appreciate the coolness of this, just remember Mozart died in 1791. (He was only 35, so had he survived his reckless lifestyle, who knows, he might have been in the picture, too.) So Constanze, here 78, lived long enough to have her photo taken. She must have been a remarkable bridge back to a wig-and-powder world already vanished. A link to a distant cultural past, one we today only see though paintings, largely monarchial and pre-industrial.

Or to put it another way--My God, this woman fucked Mozart!

3 comments:

George said...

Um ... no she didn't ...

More here.

rockolsen said...

"There are no outdoor photographs of groups of people dating from 1840, because the lenses invented by Joseph Petzval, which were to make such portraits possible, were not available yet"

This is not true. The famous danish sculpturer Bertel Thorvaldsen 1770 - 1844 was photographed in the garden behind Charlottenborg, Copenhagen in august 1840 by the photographer Neubourg. True the picture is blurred, but it is an outside picture.
To see the picture click following link:
http://www.mik.dk/Laesesalon/Litteratur/kunst/mus_bertel_thorvaldsen_ny.aspx

Robert Davies said...

The Petzval lens was indeed invented in 1840 itself. Our photo was probably taken on 7 Oct 1840. It was the 70th birthday of the host, Max Keller. He had provided musical input into the Nissen biography of Mozart. Constanze had made the journey despite arthritis. (Look at her hands and arms and her obvious discomfort). The similarity with her 1802 portrait is extraordinary, particularly the nose and chin. Admittedly she looks younger than her 78 years. However during their 1829 Salzburg visit the Novellos noticed that she looked much younger than her years. Yes, that's almost certainly Constanze in the photo.

Robert Davies