When I lunched this week with Stephen Roe, Sotheby’s head of books and manuscripts, he had to swear me to silence over his latest find.
Now all can be revealed.
A portrait of Mozart, never seen in public before, is coming up for auction next month.
One of only a dozen authentic images of the composer, it was sent by Mozart to his cousin Maria Anna Thekla Mozart (known as the Bäsle) in exchange for one from her. Mozart and Maria Anna had a lively correspondence in their teens, full of dirty words and thoughts, before drifting in different directions. The picture apparently remained in the cousin’s family for two centuries.
Here’s the picture, as copied by Sotheby’s. It has never been reproduced in colour before. Prepare to adjust your image of teenaged Mo.
Dr Stephen Roe, Sotheby’s Worldwide Head of Books & Manuscripts, says: “One of only two authentic paintings of Mozart remaining in private hands and one of only a dozen or so authentic paintings and drawings of the composer, this object’s significance is virtually unparalleled. What is particularly exciting is that the portrait has never been reproduced in colour in the standard Mozart literature, and it is only now that the miniature’s special qualities can be more widely appreciated. Mozart’s features come as a revelation when viewed in the flesh; the detail in the face is remarkable, formed by the tiniest dots of gouache applied with the utmost precision and delicacy, and a marvellous luminosity pervades the entire image. The artist, though unknown, has caught the essence of the composer.”