Mozart portrait miniature of ‘virtually unprecedented significance’ for sale | Art


With his rosy cheeks and shining eyes, Mozart looks like a cherub, the very image of a young man in love.

The image is contained in an incredibly rare portrait miniature, reproduced in color for what is believed to be the first time and is about to be auctioned off after centuries of being passed down through generations of the same family. .

Sotheby’s has announced it will sell one of only two Mozart portraits that remain in private hands, with the auction house’s head of books and manuscripts describing the object’s significance as ‘virtually unprecedented’ .

He said the artist captured the very essence of Mozart. “He looks directly at you, whereas there are a lot of miniature portraits where the eyes might as well be closed. This is different. He engages you…he’s very open and friendly. You are looking at a real person.

The 21-year-old composer gave the portrait to his 18-year-old cousin Maria Anna Thekla Mozart, with whom he had a fleeting affair, probably his first.

He almost certainly had affection for her, though it’s hard to discern since her letters can’t stand too much repetition. “They’re pretty scatological,” Roe said, and for lack of a better word, filthy.

The portrait, given as a sign of love, clearly meant a lot to Maria Anna, given that it was found among her belongings when she died in 1841, aged 82. “She’s had it for about 70 years, which is touching,” Chevreuil said.

In the meantime, Mozart quickly turned to Mannheim’s soprano Aloysia Weber, with whom he was deeply – and irrevocably – madly in love.

There are 12 known portraits of Mozart, 10 of which are in public collections. The miniature has already been reproduced in Mozart’s literature, but only in black and white.

The 4cm portrait by an unknown artist was made on ivory and has its original bezel and glass. It’s not high-end, but it’s a thing of beauty, Roe said, pointing to the remarkable facial detail “formed by the smallest dots of gouache applied with the utmost precision and delicacy.”

The piece will go to auction on November 20 and is expected to fetch between £200,000 and £300,000.


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