|Frock me, Amadeus
||[Mar. 16th, 2008|01:55 am]
Making the Long 18th Century Last Longer
You've probably already seen the newly-discovered portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. |
One of the most important pieces of evidence for the painting being of Mozart was this letter of his to Baroness von Waldstadten from Vienna, 28 September 1782:
(Mersmann/Bozman translation: London, 1928)
"...That beautiful red coat which took my fancy so vastly, pray, pray let me know where it is to be had, and at what price—for that I have quite forgotten, having been unable to take in anything at the time but its splendor! Indeed such a coat I must have—one which will really do justice to certain buttons with which my fancy has long gone pregnant! I saw them once, when I was choosing buttons for a suit, in the Kohlmarkt at Brandau's button-shop, opposite the Milano. They are made of mother-of-pearl, with some sort of white stones around the edge and a fine yellow stone set in the centre of each. I should like to have all my things of good quality, workmanship, and appearance! How is it, I wonder, that those who have not the means would be prepared to spend any amount on such articles, while those who have the means— do not do so!..."
The scholarly conclusion: Mozart shopped like a girl. Or a Goth. I'd hazard a guess that after reading that, you may be feeling a sudden kinship for the man.
I like his metaphor about the buttons impregnating his fancy. In a later letter Mozart thanked the Baroness "for having immediately taken so much trouble over the beautiful coat." She was a patroness of his, so she probably helped him purchase both the coat and the much-coveted buttons. A button which seems to match his precise description, with part of a second, can be seen on the far lapel of the coat in the new portrait.
Next time I'm in Vienna, I think I'll take time to visit Mozart's memorial (the exact location of his grave is, of course, unknown) and leave him a suitably fabulous button.