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Bach in Arts - Bach Portrait

B-01

Type:

Bach Painting

Title:

E.G. Haussmann 1746

Description:

This most famous portrait of J.S. Bach and definitely authentic. Served as model for countless other portraits of Bach.

Measures:

Oil on canvas.
79.5 x 63.5 cm.
Signature on back “EG Haußmann pinxit 1746” later covered by a layer of canvas (cf. no. 562).

Creator:

Painter: Elias Gottlieb Haussmann (1695-1774), the well-known painter to the Saxon court and the city of Leipzig.
Year: 1746

History:

According to oral tradition it was “once in the possession of Friedemann Bach, from whose family it passed to the former cantor August Eberhard Müller, who on his appointment as Kapellmeister in Weimar at the end of 1809 donated it to this institution” (J.G. Stallbaum, "Osterprogramm der Thomasschule", 1852). Müller (1767-1817) had been a pupil of Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach’s in Bückeburg, became organist at St Nicholas’s in Leipzig in 1794, assistant in 1800 and successor to Johann Adam Hiller as Cantor at St Thomas’s in 1804. He must have had the portrait by 1800, since Bollinger's etching of 1802 (B-35) bears the inscription “engraved from the original painting in the Thomasschule, Leipzig”. (Müller was already living in the school building in 1801.) In spite of Stallbaum it is not impossible that this picture came from the Leipzig branch of Bach’s descendants, of whom the youngest daughter Regina Susanna only died in 1809. The earlier history of the picture is also unclear. In June 1747 Bach became the fourteenth member of Lorenz Christoph MizIer’s “Corresponding Society of Musical Sciences”, founded in 1738, and in 1840 Carl Ferdinand Becker suggested a connection, because rule number 21 of the Society read that “each member should at his convenience send a picture of himself, well painted on canvas, to the library, where it will be retained as a memento and an etching of it used to illustrate the account of that member's career when it is related in the annals of the Society” (Mizler, “Musikalische Bibliothek”, Vol. III/2, Leipzig, 1746). This supposition is supported by the fact that the triple canon (BWV 1076) here presented to the viewer is identical to the “three-fold circular fugue in six parts” (MizIer, 1754), which Bach offered to the Society in 1747 (cf. no. 563). This still does not confirm that the picture from the Thomasschule and that sent to Mizler were the same, because even if Bach did conform to this rule he could have retained the original in the family and only sent a copy to the Society. Portraits of other members are not available for comparison and nothing is known of their fate after the dissolution of the Society in 1754/5. The view sometimes expressed that Bach’s portrait went to the Thomasschule as early as 1755 is without any foundation. While in the possession of the Thomasschule it underwent various more or less drastic restorations. In 1850 C.L. Hilgenfeldt, following a similar assertion made ten years earlier by C.F. Becker, said: “A pity that time has begun to have its effect on the painting. It is much darker and the outlines arc already becoming blurred”. In 1852 it was “freshened up” and in about 1879 the Dresden landscape painter Friedrich Preller the younger (1838-1901) restored it drastically and overpainted it heavily. When Bach’s bones were identified in 1894/95, the Berlin restorer Schönfelder cleaned and renovated it once more and contemporary reports said that the effect was “distinctly more expressive and detailed” (His II) than after the recent overpainting. 1913 it was presented on permanent loan to the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum of Leipzig whose then director, Albrecht KurzweIly, had it “thoroughly put in order with modern methods of restoration ... by the Leipzig painter Walter Kuhn (1855-1929), who had a long-standing reputation as a picture-restorer” (KurzweIly II), in the course of which the original signature was uncovered and the temporary mistake in dating it 1735 (cf. B-17) could be finally rectified. However the deletion of the preposition “per” in the signature on the canon-sheet, because it was believed be a later addition, was clearly a mistake, and its legitimacy has been amply authenticated by the original printing (1747) of the canon (cf. no. 563), the reproduction in Mizler's “Musikalische Bibliothek”, Vol. IV, 1754, the Haussmann replica of 1748 (B-02), Schlick’s 1840 engraving (B-15) and the Haussmann copies of 1791 and 1848 (B-03 and B-05). In 1960 the layers of paint were thoroughly examined at the Dresden Institut für Denkmalpflege by means of special x-ray techniques. Dismissing this signed and dated portrait as “not authentic” (Besseler I) because it had so often been restored, seems in view of the conscientious way in which it was last treated to be as misguided as relegating it to the position of a presumed second version of some vanished original, which also served as model for the 1791 copy (B 3) (Besseler III, VII). Kurzwelly (II) himself affirmed its authenticity at the time of the 1913 restoration by pointing out that the hand and the manuscript had originally been painted in another position, which could only happen with an original.

Current Location:

Museum für Geschichte der Stadt Leipzig

Photograph by:

Rolf Langematz, Leipzig

Comments:

Buy book at:

Amazon.de [Bach-Dokumente]

Source/Links: Bach-Dokumente: Bilddokumente zur Lebensgeschichte Johann Sebastian Bachs: Bd 4 (Bärenreiter, 1979) | The Face of Bach
Contributor: Aryeh Oron & Thomas Braatz (December 2007 - January 2008)

Bach in Arts & Memorabilia: Main Page | Index by Type/Number
Bach in Arts: Portraits | Statues, Monuments, Memorials & Plaques | Hommage a Bach | Posters & Graphic Art | Busts, Figurines & Statuettes | Postcards & Greeting Cards | Caricatures & Cartoons | Stamps & Envelopes | Medals, Medallions & Coins | Pottery, Ceramics & Glass | Seals, Signatures & Monograms | Festival Posters | Musical Instruments & Music Boxes | Video Art
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Last update: ýJanuary 3, 2008 ý10:41:07