The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: A second photograph of Chopin has been discovered. Here it is along with how it was found and what it tells us | March 11, 2017

By Jacob Stockinger

A conservative musician who admired and valued the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart above that of  Ludwig van Beethoven and his own contemporaries, Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) is one of the most popular and most played of all Romantic composers.

He remains a perennial favorite of audiences, students and concert artists. Witness the recent sold-out concerts featuring Chopin’s music by Trevor Stephenson at his home and by Adam Neiman at Farley’s House of Pianos. An amazingly high percentage of Chopin’s works remains in the active repertoire.

His was no belated posthumous fame, either. Chopin, the famous Polish pianist-composer who was exiled in Paris, was well-known and widely respected in his own lifetime by the public and by other famous composers and pianists such as Franz Liszt and Robert Schumann.

Yet despite many drawings and paintings of Chopin – often at odds in their depictions — until recently only one known photograph of Chopin existed: The familiar one taken by Louis-Auguste Bisson in Paris towards the end of Chopin’s life, just months before he died of tuberculosis at age 39 in 1849.

Now a second photograph — or daguerreotype, to be exact — has been discovered. It probably dates from 1847 or so.

Here is the new photographic portrait of Chopin:

Want to know some background?

Here is the story from Poland via The Washington Post and the Associated Press:

Here are the two known photographs side by side for comparison:

And here is a terrific blog analysis of the two photographs that also discusses his late music and what the photographs tell us about Chopin:

The Ear wonders how long it will be before we start seeing the new photograph of Chopin on CD jackets and liner notes.

In any case, as an homage, here is Chopin’s last composition, the archetypically Polish form of the Mazurka in F minor, Op. 68, No. 4, played in a YouTube video by Vladimir Ashkenazy :


  1. You’re right about Chopin and his religion. In fact, doing some online research, it turns out he was quite the anti-Semite. Interesting point about Horowitz. On hand size, look at the “new” picture of Chopin, his hands look huge, or should I say bigly in it.


    Comment by FFlambeau — March 11, 2017 @ 12:01 pm

  2. Good blog article on the newly discovered photograph. I am struck by how much Chopin and Arthur Rubinstein (another Polish Jew) look alike. And of course, Rubinstein, is considered one of the masters of Chopin’s works. Also noteworthy in the photo: how large his hands were.

    Here’s a young photo of Arthur Rubinstein (looks very similar to the one of Chopin):


    Comment by FFlambeau — March 11, 2017 @ 5:53 am

    • Thanks for reading and replying.
      You make a good point with the Rubinstein-Chopin comparison.
      Just three points to add:
      First, people often thought and said the same of Vladimir Horowitz, another great Chopin interpreter, who was Russian (still Slavic). In fact, one of his album covers featured silhouette profiles of Horowitz and Chopin — and they were strikingly similar.
      Second, Chopin was not “another Polish Jew.” Chopin was raised Catholic, and while his body was buried in Paris, his heart was removed, as per his request, and sent to Warsaw where it was kept in a cathedral.
      Finally, Rubinstein did indeed have huge hands with an enormous span; but Chopin was known for his small hands that were extremely flexible.
      Best wishes,
      The Ear


      Comment by welltemperedear — March 11, 2017 @ 10:16 am

      • On a recent trip to Poland I was able to visit the church where Chopin;s heart is entombed. Beautiful fresh floral displays are still placed near this site in the church. Thank you for your post and clarifying the previous post’s error.


        Comment by Terry — March 11, 2017 @ 11:05 am

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