Swiss physicist finds new Chopin photograph

The Institut Polonais in Paris reports that a Swiss enthusiast, Alain Kohler, has come up with a hitherto unknown photograph of Frederic Chopin.

The Daguerrotype portrait was taken in or around 1847 in the Paris workshop of Louis-Auguste Bisson.

Chopin looks less haggard that usual, and rather annoyed.

Dr Kohler was previously responsible for discovering a lost Chopin piano.

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  • How extraordinary to see him two years before his death. He also looks more handsome, rugged even, and, though possibly annoyed, less abjectly miserable.

  • Extraordinary finding. Two years before his death. He looks annoyed. Perhaps did not feel well. Congratulations to Alain Koehler for this discovery.

    • He must have been feeling desperately miserable and weak and feverish. And yet, a noble expression. According to Thomas Mann, suffering, and especially physical suffering, brings about the best in the artistic human being, and creativity and illness are closely related. (I would like to think this were not so, creativity being a natural, positive energy. But evidence suggests….)

      • I disagree. I can’t imagine trying to create anything as beautiful as the Raindrop Prelude on Majorca if you feel crappy. We’re lucky to have as much as we do.

        • And yet, we know that trip to Mallorca was disastrous in terms of practicalities, wrong season, no transportation, shopping very difficult, and the company being utterly exasperated by it all, especially Chopin who felt bad all the time, according to all reports. Mallorca was not the easy-going tourist destination it is nowadays but a very rural and isolated place, beautiful but rough.

  • He doesn’t look as fragile as some of the descriptions of him suggest.

    I thought the Jewish comment
    was in very poor taste.

  • If that’s a daguerreotype, it’s either a very strange one, or it’s very deteriorated. Or the published reproduction is “terrible.” As is, it looks more like a drawn portrait than a photographic one. A daguerreotype is generally razor-sharp (unless the subject moves) and this one… Unless, of course, this is a daguerreotype OF a drawn portrait.

    • I think it’s deteriorated. It just doesn’t look like a painting, at all. If he had been sitting for a portrait, no portrait painter would have given him that expression or that angle of the eyes. His eyes are looking askance. Extremely unusual for a painted portrait.

    • I agree that it’s very odd looking. I won’t go so far as to say it’s fake, but the angle is very odd for a photographic portrait from that time, and the lighting does not look like Louis-Auguste Bisson other portrait Chopin.

  • In order to have a daguerreotype done, one had to keep the eyes open for an unusually long time. For an exposure by overcast, dark skies in winter 3 ½ minutes was sufficient, on a sunny day in the shade 1½ to 2 minutes were enough. So, before you analyse the Chopin’s facial expression in this daguerreotype, try to keep your own eyes open and your face unmoved for 3 ½ minutes. Then let’s see what kind of expression you have on your face. 🙂

  • I’m sceptical – this simply does not look quite right (in that it looks a bit too conveniently ‘exactly-what-we-expect/want-him-to-look-like’), and it does not look much like the genuine Daguerreotype of Chopin from 1849. We do not seem to have the actual original Daguerrotype in this ‘discovery’, only this picture of the alleged Daguerrotype. It seems to be based on the pose of the Delacroix 1838 painting, but such a pose is unusual for a Daguerrotype, with its long exposure time, and reliance upon special equipment to constrain the head for a long period. Normaly the photographers tried to feature more of the torso of subjects, not just heads. Here he looks thinner and more haggard than in the authenticated photo of 2 years later. Sceptical flags on alert until more proof, I think. I suspect it’s made using a realistic watercolour painting of Chopin, based upon the death mask, which was then photographed by crude means.

    • Until we learn the provenance of this picture, I remain skeptical. Doesn’t look quite right. We’ve seen other attempted fakes of Chopin before – I recall one claiming to show Chopin on his deathbed. In fact, we are not even sure of the date and photographer of the famous “1849” photo, which is obviously authentic. This new photo decidedly does not have the look of authenticity. We need much more hard information from Mr. Kohler.

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