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By Culturekiosque Staff

LEIPZIG, GERMANY, 30 APRIL 2015 — After 265 years, the most important item of Bach iconography is to return to Leipzig in the shape of the Bach portrait by Leipzig painter, Elias Gottlob Haussmann. On his 100th birthday, the American philanthropist Dr. William H. Scheide designated Leipzig Bach Archive as the beneficiary of one of the greatest treasures of his collection. E. G. Haussmann’s portrait is the sole authentic portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach painted from-life.

Sir John Eliot Gardiner, the President of the Leipzig Bach Archive, grew up under the gaze of this portrait: "The famous Haussmann portrait was entrusted to my father's care by its owner Walter Jenke, a German-Jewish refugee, for the duration of World War II. I passed in front of it several times a day all through my Dorset childhood, a time when I was first learning to sing the Bach motets by heart. So it is both poignant and fitting to see the portrait leave its current home, where it has hung in the living room of the great Bach scholar and philanthropist, the late William Scheide, for the past 60-odd years, and to witness its return to Leipzig."

E. G.  Haussmann: Bach Portrait, 1748, Leipzig

At the opening of the Bach Festival on 12 June in Leipzig, Sir John Eliot Gardiner will present the painting to the public for the first time before it goes on permanent display in the Leipzig Bach Museum.

The American musicologist and philanthropist Dr. William H. Scheide died on 14 November 2014, in his 101st year. Besides Princeton University, to which William H. Scheide left his collection of books and manuscripts, on 6 January 2014, his 100th birthday, he designated Leipzig Bach Archive as the beneficiary of one of the greatest treasures of his collection. Thanks to William H. Scheide, the famous Bach portrait of 1748 by the Leipzig painter Elias Gottlob Haussmann, valued at US$2.5 million, will be returning to Leipzig after 265 years. The portrait, which probably everyone has already seen once in their life, is an icon of music history and, to judge by the sources, is the only true portrayal of the composer. All the portraits of Bach known today stem from this one painting.
The portrait shows Johann Sebastian Bach in a formal pose aged around 60. In his right hand, he holds a sheet bearing the Canon triplex à 6 Voc: per J. S. Bach as proof of the sophistication of his craftsmanship. Haussmann painted two versions of the portrait. The first (dated 1746) was probably a part of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach’s share of the inheritance and was purchased in around 1800 by the later cantor of St. Thomas’s Church August Eberhard Müller; he subsequently donated the portrait to Leipzig St. Thomas’s Boys Choir. This version has suffered badly, having been poorly restored and several times painted over during the second half of the nineteenth century – numerous details have been lost, and Bach’s features are blurred and have shadows on them. This version has been displayed in the Bach Room of Leipzig’s local history museum, the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum, since 1913.
The second original, painted in 1748, is in a much better state of conservation. This is a captivating portrait, not only because of its glowing colours and sharp outlines, but also because of its moving history. The 1748 portrait was part of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s share of the inheritance and was once displayed as part of the voluminous collection of portraits belonging to Bach’s second-eldest son in Hamburg. The catalogue of the estate of the »Hamburg Bach« from 1790 describes it as follows: Bach (Johann Sebastian) Kapellmeister and Music-director in Leipzig. Painted in oils by Hausmann. 2 feet, 8 inches high, 2 feet, 2 inches wide. In a golden frame.
From the early nineteenth century, the painting was owned by the Jewish Jenke family from Breslau (now Wroclaw). Walter Jenke, a descendant of the erstwhile purchasers, was forced to emigrate from Germany in the 1930s. To protect the painting from air raids, Jenke kept the portrait at the country home of his friends, the Gardiners, in Dorset. As a result, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, today President of Bach Archive and one of the most renowned conductors of our time, grew up under Bach’s gaze.
In 1952, the Bach researcher and collector William H. Scheide from Princeton/New Jersey bought the painting in an auction. Scheide, who in the Bach anniversary year of 1985 had already expressed his wish to see "his Bach" return home one day, granted the Leipzig Bach Archive the exclusive right of first refusal when he visited the Leipzig Bach Festival in 2003. Together with his wife Judith, he finally bequeathed the painting to the Bach Archive. Bill Scheide died on 14 November 2014. As a member of the Board of Trustees of Leipzig Bach Archive Foundation since 2001, he had been one of the Archive’s most generous and loyal sponsors.
Yesterday, 29 April 2015 the Bach portrait by E. G. Haussmann was officially donated to Burkhard Jung, Mayor of the City of Leipzig, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, President of the Bach Archive, and Professor Peter Wollny, Director of the Bach Archive, in a private ceremony at the Scheide’s home in the presence of William H. Scheide’s family. At the opening of the Leipzig Bach Festival, the painting will have its first-ever public showing in Leipzig in the history-steeped St. Nicholas’s Church, one of the principal backdrops for the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. From 13 June 2015, the portrait will be moved to the Treasure Room of Leipzig Bach Museum, where it will be on permanent display.

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