Tuesday, May 8, 2018


A Review of Mozart Iconography
Vincent P. de Luise, M.D.

Wolfgang Amade' Mozart (1756 - 1791)
The oil portrait by his brother-in-law, Johann Joseph Lange

It has often been said that to discover the real Mozart, one need simply listen to his ineffable music. Yet, questions still arise: What did Mozart look like? Which are the true portraits that were made of him during his life? Can an artist capture genius in a painting? 

Of the hundreds of images of Wolfgang Amade' Mozart, only about a dozen have been attested. The early 20th century biographer Arthur Schurig crystallized this apparent Mozartean paradox: "Mozart has been the subject of more portraits that have no connection with his actual appearance than any other famous man; and there is no famous person of whom a more worshipful posterity has had a more incorrect physical appearance than is generally the case with Mozart." (1) 

One reason that has been offered for the paucity of vetted depictions of Mozart is that he was not painted by the more prominent artists of his time, as had been Johann Sebastian Bach, Johann Christian Bach, Handel, Haydn and Beethoven. No Haussmann (JS Bach), Gainsborough (JC Bach), Hudson (Handel), Hoppner (Haydn) or Waldmuller (Beethoven) portrayed Mozart.

Mozart's sister Maria Anna (Nannerl) captured an aspect of him: "... My brother was a rather pretty child." Later, she added that he was "small, thin, and pale in color, and lacking in any pretensions as to physiognomy and bodily appearance." The composer Johann Adolph Hasse wrote that "the boy Mozart is handsome, graceful and full of good manners." Michael Kelly, the tenor who sang the roles of Don Basilio and Don Curzio in the premiere of Le Nozze di Figaro, famously reminisced about Mozart in 1826: "He was a remarkably small man, very thin and pale, with a profusion of fine hair, of which he was rather vain...."   

Roland Tenschert published an initial series of Mozart portraits in 1931. (2) The musicologist and historian Otto Eric Deutsch codified Mozart iconography in a seminal article in the 1956 bicentennial volume, The Mozart Companion (3), and further detailed his findings, where he identified twelve portraits that have the provenance to be considered authentic. (4,5)

Since then, several portraits have been put forth which purport to represent Mozart: the Joseph Grassi snuffbox enamel; the portrait from the estate of the Mozarts' landlord, Johann Lorenz Hagenauer (the painting referred to as "The Man in the Red Coat"); the Edlinger portrait; the Albi Rosenthal sketch, the Fruhstorfer portrait of a boy with a toy soldier; the J.B. Delahaye portrait;  the portrait by Leopold Bode; the portrait of a boy with a bird's nest at one time attributed to Zoffany; and a portrait attributed to Greuze. The Grassi has been contested. The Hagenauer, Edlinger, Fruhstorfer, Delahaye, and Greuze have undergone biometric analysis. The Edlinger has been proven not to be Mozart. The Zoffany is no longer considered to be either painted by Zoffany nor of Mozart. None of these portraits resembles the vetted portraits of Mozart. (These portraits and references are included in the Addendum below). 

A small enamel of a young man, putatively of Mozart, was sold at auction at Sotheby's in 2014. (6) The enamel was supposedly given by Wolfgang to his cousin, Maria Anna Thekla Mozart ("Basle"), in 1777. Deutsch listed it as "formerly in the possession of Mozart's cousin, Anna Maria Thekla (nicknamed, Bäsle) Mannheim 1777," yet placed it in the category of spurious works. It has been critiqued as an idealized and stylized portrait, a popular technique at the time that was mass produced and not necessarily an accurate representation of the sitter. However, the provenance of the miniature enamel is strong. It has been hypothesized that Mozart may have commissioned this portrait of himself to give to his cousin and requested an idealized depiction.

In 1947, a bronze "death mask," said to be that of Mozart, was found in an antique shop in Vienna. Legend has it that a gypsum plaster death mask was made "shortly after Mozart died," either by Josef Deym von Stritetz or Taddeus Ribola. Upon the death of the craftsman, the mask went to his (the craftsman's) widow, and when she died, the mask vanished. Mozart's widow Constanze Mozart Nissen wrote that she had been given "a replica" of the death mask, presumably also in plaster, but had "clumsily broken it" around 1821. Most scholars do not accept the bronze death mask as authentic. (7,8)

The following are the canonical portraits of Mozart as articulated by Deutsch. (4,5,6) The posthumous Barbara Kraft portrait derives from several of the others, so the number of uniquely identifiable Mozart portraits is eleven:

1. The Boy Mozart, oil painting, attributed to Pietro Antonio Lorenzoni, 1763 (Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg). The Lorenzoni is contested. The head has been spliced into a stock painting of the clothing.

Wolfgang Mozart in 1763 at age 7.
Attributed to  Pietro Lorenzoni.

2. Leopold Mozart with Wolfgang and Maria Anna ("Nannerl"), watercolor by Louis Carrogis de Carmontelle, November 1763 (Musée Condé, Chantilly). Three variants (Musée Carnavalet, Paris; British Museum, London; Castle Howard, York), an engraving by Delafosse in 1764 after Carmontelle's painting (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris) and several other copies are known to exist. If the youth at the keyboard is Wolfgang, he looks nothing like the Wolfgang of the Lorenzoni or the Verona portraits.
Leopold, Wolfgang and Maria Anna (Nannerl) Mozart 
by Louis Carrogis de Carmontelle

3. The Tea Party at Prince Louis-François de Conti's, in the 'Temple', oil painting by Michel Barthélemy Ollivier, 1766 (Musée du Louvre, Paris). The head of the person playing the harpsichord is so small that the painting, per O.E. Deutsch, is "iconographically worthless." In addition, the individual playing the harpsichord looks to be about 50 and not ten years of age, and cannot be seen clearly. Unless Mozart had progeria, which he did not, this is not him.

The Tea Party in "The Temple"
by Michel Barthelmey Ollivier 1766

4. Wolfgang at 14 years of age at the piano. This oil is the so-called "Verona portrait," attributed to Saverio dalla Rosa, or his maternal uncle, Giambettino Cignaroli, or the artists may have collaborated. 1770 (Private Collection). 

Mozart at the keyboard, 1770
The so-called "Verona Portrait"
by Saverio dalla Rosa or Giambettino Cignaroli

5. Miniature on ivory, attributed to Martin Knoller, 1773 (Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg). 
The 1773 miniature on ivory
attributed to Martin Knoller

6. The anonymous portrait in enamel, 1777, presumably of Wolfgang, that he may have given to his cousin Maria Anna Thekla (the "Basle"), auctioned at Sotheby's in 2014. (6)
The 1777 enamel miniature that Wolfgang
may have given to his cousin, Maria Anna Thekla Mozart (the "Basle")

7. The 1777 copy of Mozart as Knight of the Golden Spur, anonymous oil painting, (Museo Internazionale e Biblioteca della Musica di Bologna). The 1770 original oil has been lost. Leopold wrote that Wolfgang was ill when this was painted.

The 1777 copy of the lost 1770 oil
Mozart with the Order of the Golden Spur

8. The Family Portrait, an oil painting attributed to Johann Nepomuk della Croce, 1780-1781 (Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg). Anna Maria Walburga Pertl Mozart (the mother of Wolfgang and Nannerl, and Leopold's spouse) is seen on the wall in the portrait. She died in Paris in 1778. In 1829, when Mary and Vincent Novello met with and interviewed Constanze Mozart Nissen, she stated that the image of Wolfgang in this painting was "one of the best likenesses" of him. (9)

The Mozart Family Portrait 1780-1781
attributed to Johann Nepomuk della Croce

9. Oil painting by Johann Joseph Lange, (?1782) (Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg. Sometimes entitled "Mozart at the Piano"). At some later time, the head of this portrait was affixed to a larger canvas, presumably with the intention of depicting Mozart seated at the piano, but this larger painting was unfinished; it is the portrait that we see today at the Wohnhaus across from the Mozarteum. The portrait itself is on a side wall, in shadow, behind a velvet rope.  
In 1829, in an interview with the Novellos, Constanze Mozart Nissen stated that this Lange portrait and the della Croce painting were the best likenesses of her brother Wolfgang. The Novellos went on to write that, "..... by far the best likeness of him (Mozart), in Mrs. Constanze Nissen's opinion, is the painting in oils done by the Husband of Madame Lange (the eldest sister of Mrs. Nissen)....." who is the very same Joseph Lange who painted this portrait.(9)
Lorenz has researched the Lange portrait in the context of Lange's other paintings. His conclusion is that "the Mozart portrait by Joseph Lange is not an unfinished painting of "Mozart at the Piano," but an unfinished enlargement of an original miniature of Mozart's head." (10)  In specular reflection, a rectangular outline can be observed around Mozart's head and torso.  Lorenz has shown that this was the earlier, smaller, finished portrait, which was at some point in time cut out of its original frame and mounted into this larger, unfinished canvas.
Mozart, by his brother-in-law, Joseph Lange.

10. Silhouette, engraved by Hieronymous Löschenkohl, 1785, for his Musik- und Theater-Almanach of 1786 (one copy in the Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien). The silhouette is contested. Löschenkohl correctly uses Mozart's middle name, Amade'.

The Silhouette of 1784/1785 
by Johann Hieronymus Loschenkohl

11. Medallion in red wax, by Leonard Posch, 1788 (formerly Mozart-Museum, Salzburg: missing since 1945); Deutsch lists three other variants.(4)  Grosspietsch describes six variants.(11)

The 1788 medallion in red wax by Leonard Posch.

12. The silverpoint drawing by Dorothea (Doris) Stock, 1789 (Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg). This tiny and meticulously rendered portrait of Mozart, about four inches by three inches in greatest dimension, is at the Wohnhaus under glass with a convex lens over it.

The 1789 silverpoint by Doris Stock

13. The posthumous Barbara Kraft portrait of 1819 in the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Vienna. Nannerl Mozart lent Kraft the della Croce painting and two other portraits (both now lost), upon which she based this painting.
The 1819 posthumous oil by Barbara Kraft.

Christoph Grosspietsch has written a detailed treatise on Mozart iconography. (11) An introductory article with excellent images can be found here (12). There is a website (www.mozartportraits.com) with an extensive catalogue of authenticated, inauthentic, under study, and controversial images of Mozart (13).  

Mozart scholar Cliff Eisen has offered an eloquent summary on the function of Mozart portraiture:

"Very few images of Mozart are universally agreed to be authentic. Yet the acceptance of these portraits - as well as more recently discovered portraits purporting to be Mozart - is less the result of provenance or connoisseurship than the fact that they are shrines at which Mozart scholars and Mozart lovers uncritically worship. They are representations of how we would like Mozart to look - in short they satisfy our visual biographical fancy. This is true above all of the unfinished portrait by Joseph Lange. The musicologist H.C. Robbins Landon described it as the most intimate, most profound, of all the mature  Mozart portraits - the only one, really, to catch the ambivalent nature of Mozart's mercurial mind and to show the profoundly pessimistic side of his many-sided genius." (14)

@ 2017 Vincent P. de Luise, M.D.


1. Schurig, A. Wolfgang Mozart: Sein Leben und sein Werk Insel-Verlag, Leipzig 1913.
2. Tenschert, R. Mozart: Ein Kunstlerleben in Bildern und Doumenten, 1931.
3. Deutsch, O.E. Mozart Iconography, in The Mozart Companion, Robbins-Landon, H.C and Mitchell, D, eds.  Oxford University Press, 1956.
4. Deutsch, O.E. Mozart und seine Welt in zeitgenossischen BildernM. Zenger, ed. Verlag Kassel, Barenreiter, 1961.
5. Zenger, M. and Deutsch, O.E. Mozart and his World in Contemporary Pictures. Neue Ausgabe Samtlicher Werke. X. Supplement. Kassel. Barenreiter Kassel, 1987.
7. https://edwardianpiano.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/count-josef-deyms-art-collection-and-mozarts-death-mask/
8. Karhausen,L. The Bleeding of Mozart, XLibris  2011 .
9. Novello, V. and Novello, M. "A Mozart Pilgrimage- Being the Travel Diaries of Vincent and Mary Novello in the year 1829, N. de Medici di Marignano and Robert Hughes, London, 1955, reprinted 1975.  
10. Lorenz, M. http://michaelorenz.blogspot.com/2012/09/joseph-langes-mozart-portrait.html
11. Grosspietsch, C. Mozart-Bilder / Bilder Mozarts  Salzburg, Verlag Anton Pustet, Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum, 2013.
12. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/02/09/what-mozart-really-looked-like-14-portraits-of-the-composer-photos-music.html
13. www.mozartportraits.com
14. Eisen, C. https://www.apollo-magazine.com/features/5569418/a-new-portrait-of-mozart.thtml  


One of the more interesting portraits that may have been painted during Mozart's life is the miniature portrait enamel on a tobacco snuff box, attributed to Joseph Grassi. The portrait is said to have been painted around 1783. It is owned by the Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum and has been accepted by Christoph Grosspietsch and the Mozarteum. The archivist Michael Lorenz has questioned the attribution of the portrait to Grassi and has also pointed out an error in the middle name: there was an artist by the name of Joseph Mathias Grassi (not Joseph Maria Grassi). (1)

Miniature enamel on a tobacco snuffbox
attributed to Joseph Grassi

The Fruhstorfer Portrait of a boy with a toy soldier

The Delahaye Portrait  c.1772
 Portrait  by Johann Georg Edlinger 1789-1790
Professor Rudolph Angermuller has done 
research to suggest that this is not Mozart
but rather, a Bavarian butcher from Munich

The Portrait in the Hagenauer Estate
("The Man in the Red Coat") 1789-1790

The anonymous Albi Rosenthal silverpoint drawing c. 1790
(see H.C. Robbins-Landon, The Mozart Compendium, pp.112-113)

The Bode portrait. This portrait was executed by Leopold Bode in 1859, 68 years after Mozart died. Bode stated that he had used the 1770 Verona portrait as a template.

Portrait of a young man by Leopold Bode 1859

For decades, the c. 1770 painting by Viennese artist Franz Taddaus Helbling in the Stiftung Internationale Mozarteum was thought to be Mozart. It has been proven that the individual in the painting is not Mozart, but rather, Carl Graf Firmian.

Carl Graf Firmian at the piano by Franz Taddaus Helbling, c. 1770

A portrait known as the "Boy with a Bird's Nest" had at one time been attributed to the prominent British painter John Zoffany (1733-1810), and the individual depicted had been thought to represent Mozart. 
This portrait is not at all as finely rendered as the many superb portraits of children that Zoffany painted. The Mozarteum has firmly rejected the painting as being Mozart. The Zoffany scholar Martin Postle does not consider the portrait to have been painted by Zoffany, writing that "it has been stated, incorrectly, that a painting of a young boy holding a birds nest.... is a portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart by John Zoffany." So, here we have a "cautionary tale," as Dexter Edge has articulated in a detailed analysis.(9) This painting is neither by Zoffany nor of Mozart.
Boy with a Bird's Nest.

A portrait of a young man, dated 1763/1764 and attributed to Jean-Baptiste Greuze, at the Yale University Collection of Musical Instruments, had at one time been said to be Mozart. Scholars have not accepted this attestation. On the label next to the portrait is written the following: " Attributed to Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805). Signed "BJG." Yale University, New Haven Connecticut, acquired 1960. Exhibitions: Mozarteum Salzburg, Austria 1910. The identification of the sitter as Mozart has never been confirmed and should be treated with skepticism."

@ 2017 Vincent P. de Luise M.D.

1. http://michaelorenz.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-newly-discovered-mozart-portrait.html

2. http://www.neuroscience-of-music.se/ormen/Edlinger%20Mozart-2.htm

3. http://www.neuroscience-of-music.se/ormen/Fruhstorfer%20Mozart.htm

4. http://www.neuroscience-of-music.se/ormen/Delahaye_Mozart_Braun.htm

5. http://www.neuroscience-of-music.se/ormen/Greuze_Mozart_Braun.htm

6. http://www.neuroscience-of-music.se/ormen/Hagenauer%20Mozart.htm

7. Robbins-Landon, H.C. The Mozart Compendium, New York, Schirmer Books, 1990, pp. 112-113

8. Lorenz, M. http://michaelorenz.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-newly-discovered-mozart-portrait.html

9. Edge, D. Not Mozart, Not Zoffany: A Cautionary Tale http://www.academia.edu/7646630/Not_Mozart_Not_Zoffany_A_Cautionary_Tale_

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