Photo of Mozart's widow found
BBC News, Friday July 7, 2006
A print of the only photograph of Mozart's widow, Constanze Weber, has been found
in Germany. The photograph was taken in 1840 in the Bavarian town of Altoetting
when she was 78. She died two years later.
The local authorities say detailed examination has proved the authenticity of the image,
which is a copy of the original daguerreotype.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died at the age of 35 in 1791, when Constanze was 29. She
later married a Danish diplomat.
The print is one of the earliest examples of photography in Bavaria. It was found in the
The daguerreotype was taken at the home of the Swiss composer Max Keller, whom
Constanze used to visit regularly.
Mozart and Constanze had six children in their nine-year marriage. Only two of them
survived past childhood.
The daguerreotype shows Constanze at front left, next to Max Keller. His wife Josefa is
on the right. Behind them are (from the right): their daughters Josefa and Luise, Max
Keller's brother-in-law Philipp Lattner and the family's cook. They are outside the Keller
|To see the results of our 2nd Forensic Genealogy Survey, click here!
|Answer to Quiz #68 - July 14, 2006
|Thanks to Dr. Anthony Smart for suggesting this quiz. Click on thumbnail to see larger image.
|This Daguerreotype was thought to be the only known photograph of the wife of
a famous man whose life was the subject of an Academy Award Winning movie.
(She was supposedly the woman on the left.)
Who was the man? Why is it impossible that this was his wife?
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Outdoor photography was impossible in 1840, and
Constanza Mozart was crippled with arthritis so that
she could not possibly have traveled to the town where the photo as taken.
The hint is an audio of Mozart's famous Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.
The Academy Award winning movie was Amadeus.
The photograph was taken in 1840 in the Bavarian town of
Altoetting when Constance was 78. She died two years later
and, as stated by Agnes Selby, author of Constanze, Mozart's
Beloved on the Classical Music Guides website at
"I am terribly sorry to disappoint people on this forum, but
this is certainly not Constanze but someone's aunt.
The whole story was concocted by Keller's grandson. It
Australia we refer to such rantings as "dropping names". If
with good luck for the name dropper the press gets hold of
|Available on Amazon.
it, fame for the name dropper ensues.
Constanze Mozart was crippled by arthritis by 1840 and died in 1842. There is
absolutely no way she could have travelled to visit Maximillian Keller during the period
when the photograph was taken. Contrary to the statements made in the newspaper,
Constanze had no contact with Keller since 1826. There is no evidence that she had
corresponded with him or visited him...
The photograph has been doctored. By his own admission in earlier article, the person
who supports this claim has mentioned that the head of the woman had been cut off
but later the cutting had been found and replaced. Perhaps this is a way to glorify the
local organist's name with associating him with Mozart. Unfortunately, it does not wash
in scholarly circles.
AND from Michael Lorenz, a professor of musicology at the University of Vienna:
"The "newly discovered" picture of Constanze Mozart has already been published twice
in the 1950s, the last time in an article by E. H. Mueller von Asow in the Österreichische
Musikzeitschrift, March 1958, p. 93. 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." (Read Dr.Loretz's full article by clicking here. Scroll down
near the bottom.)
Read a great article "Mistaken Identify" by Susan Tomes about the incorrect
identification of Constanze Mozart on the Comment is Free website by clicking here.
By coincidence, an article on this photo was featured in the Los Angeles Times Calendar
Section on Monday July 17 on p. E36.
|Don't Believe Everything You Read in the Newspaper!
Constanze Mozart (née Constanze Weber) (Zell im
Wiesenthal, Germany 1762 – 1842 Salzburg), a first cousin
of the composer Carl Maria von Weber, was the wife of
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Mozart and Constanze Weber met in 1777 in Mannheim.
However, Mozart was at first more interested in her sister,
Aloysia. When Mozart met the family again in Vienna in
1781, Aloysia had already married. Mozart lived with the
Weber family for a time, though he left due to rumours
about their relationship.
Mozart and Weber married on August 4, 1782. They had
six children in about 9 years:
Raimund Leopold Mozart (1783)
Karl Thomas Mozart (1784)
Johann Leopold Mozart (1786)
Theresia Mozart (1787)
Anna Mozart (1789)
Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart (1791).
Only two of the children, Karl Thomas and Franz Xaver
Wolfgang, survived past childhood. As a result of her
frequent pregnancies, Constanze is said to have been weak
and often confined to her bed.
After Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's death in 1791,
Constanze had difficulties managing to survive with her two
children. Eventually she sold the remaining autographs of
Mozart's work (including the incomplete Requiem) in 1800,
to the publisher Johann Anton André.
In 1809, Constanze married Georg Nikolaus von Nissen, a
Danish diplomat and writer. From 1810 - 1820 they lived in
Copenhagen, and subsequently travelled through Europe,
especially Germany and Italy. They settled in Salzburg in
1824. Both worked on a biography of Mozart; Constanze
eventually published it in 1828, two years after her second
There exists a print of a daguerreotype of a family group
said to have been taken in Altötting in Bavaria in 1840,
including the 78-year-old Constanze Mozart. The
photograph has been known about by Mozart scholars for
some years and its authenticity is much doubted.
|Karl Thomas (r) and
Franz Xaver Mozart (l)
|Franz Xaver Mozart (l)
born 5 months after his
|For further reading.
Available on Amazon.
The Petzval achromatic lens required for outdoor portrait photography was invented in
1841. It was not yet available at the time the quiz photograph would have been taken.
Early single element lenses suffered from chromatic aberration, that is, different
wavelengths of light focus at slightly different positions along the optical axis, resulting
in images that are blurred and surrounded by colored halos.
To remedy this problem, an early photographer was forced to use a very small aperture
(that is, he stopped his lens down). But this meant very long exposures, so that subjects
having a studio portrait taken had to sit very still for as long as half an hour. Even
though a lot more light was present for
outdoor photography, exposures could still
be several minutes long, a very long time
for a person or group of people to sit still
in strong sunlight. It was also impossible to
take pictures of outdoor activities, one of
the primary motives for taking pictures
outdoors in the first place.
Petzvals' lens is a compound lens that
corrects for chromatic aberration present
in a single lens. By eliminating chromatic
aberration, this lens allows photographs to
be taken with a larger aperture, reducing
|The First Outdoor Photograph
by William Henry Fox Talbot, 1842
exposure times. Petzval's design (f/3.7) was ten times faster than earlier lenses
(typically around f/14 or f/17), so that it gathered more light than other lenses available
in the 1840s. The mount of time subjects had to remain motionless was drastically
reduced, enabling outdoor photography.
Jozef Maximilián Petzval (German: Josef Maximilian Petzval; Hungarian: Petzval József
(or Józeph) Miksa), (born January 6, 1807 in Spišská Belá, Slovakia - died September
19, 1891 in Vienna) was a famous Slovak mathematician, inventor and physicist best
known for his work in optics. Petzval studied and later
lectured at the Institutum Geometricum (currently Budapest
University of Technology and Economics) in Buda (part of
the later Budapest). He headed the Institute of Practical
Geometry and Hydrology/Architecture between 1841 and
1848. Later in life, he accepted the appointment to the chair
of mathematics at the University of Vienna.
Petzval is considered to be one the founders of geometrical
optics, modern photography and cinematography. Among
his inventions are the Petzval portrait lens and opera
glasses, both still in common use today. He is also credited
with the discovery of the Laplace transform and is also
known for his extensive work on aberration in optical
A historically important lens design, created by Hungarian-born* mathematician Józeph
Petzval (1807-1891) in 1840, while he was working in Vienna. Since all calculations
were done by hand it took over a year of mathematical labours to formulate the design.
An achromatic portrait lens of his design was built by Austrian maker Voigtländer to
great success. Sadly, Petzval did not earn much money from his invention following a
feud with Voigtländer and died an embittered man.
Photographic processes of the time were quite
slow, and sitters frequently had to remain
absolutely for many minutes in bright sunlight -
even longer if light levels were lower - to have
their photographs taken. Petzval’s f/3.7 lens
design gathered more light than most of its
competitors (typically around f/14 or f/17),
reducing the amount of time that subjects had to
Petzval lenses consisted of four lens elements
grouped into two doublets. More modern variants
sometimes added a fifth lens element.
Colleen..first off, this weeks quiz to great...it's driving both my wife, Laurie and me
nuts trying to figure out the person...we're in Target this afternoon-I'm pushing the cart
in areas that I'd rather not be in (shoes, handbags etc) when she tuns and yells-"Could it
be so and so..." course it couldn't so we have this big discussion all the way home...ok
now back to the quiz...I'm figuring the woman is his mom and the rest are
daughters....the guy whispering into his ear is letting him know they all need money to
go buy handbags at Target......Rick Mackinney
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