Count Josef Deym’s art collection and Mozart’s “death mask.”
It has been recorded that Mozart’s death mask was made by Count Josef Deym von Stritetz on December 5, 1791 shortly after Mozart’s death on that day. Like all such masks of its time, Mozart’s death mask was likely made of gypsum. Neither the original, nor a copy reportedly made for Contstanze Mozart survives. The death mask in this photograph is reported to be an unauthenticated bronze copy which was discovered in 1947. It is on display within Mozart’s home in Vienna, Austria. Then there is the controversy over Mozart’s death mask. According to legend, Count Joseph Deym von Stritetz made a plaster cast of Mozart’s face upon his death and subsequently exhibited the death mask in his gallery/museum, placed on a wax figure dressed in fancy clothing. When the Count died in 1804, the mask went to his widow and upon her death in 1821 it vanished.
Then, in 1947, a death mask turned up in an antique shop in Austria and ended up in the ownership of a sculptor named Willy Kauer who, thinking it looked like Mozart, tried to get the Austrian Ministry of Education to commission an inquiry in 1948 as to its authenticity. Although the mask had several features in common with Mozart, including pox marks, they released their findings as inconclusive in 1949.
There was another investigation in 1950 and this time they decided that the mask was unlikely to be Mozart’s and it was returned to Kauer. By 1956, the Mozarteum sponsored yet another examination of it and studied two initials inside it seemingly from a bronze caster in Vienna who worked during Mozart’s life named Thaddaus Ribola. He had a studio next to Count Deym’s gallery during the 1790’s. Still, not enough evidence to be sure.
From Botswain’s blog:
It is an intriguing story- it is possibly true Count Deym did make a death mask of Mozart, though I haven’t read any references to it in what is available in English online, from Deym’s sister in law Therese’s memoirs. I also wonder why Constanze would let the Count have the mask made, as she can’t have known him very well- he wasn’t a close friend of the Mozart family. However Count Deym commissioned Mozart to write music for his musical clock ( Fantasia K.594):
The K.594 piece was commissioned in 1790 by a mr. Müller—formerly Joseph count Deym von Stritez, who had left Vienna due to a duel where he killed his opponent and had recently returned under an alias. Mozart probably met him through the sculptor Leonhard Posch, author of the 1788 wax relief alongside, who also worked for the Müller’schen Kunstkabinett founded by Deym. In this ‘multimedia’ exhibition gallery wax figures of an exotic or heroic nature were displayed, while ‘musical clocks’ or player-organs provided atmosphere.
Mozart probably accepted Deym’s commission in September 1790, shortly before leaving for Frankfurt, where he hoped to take advantage of the festivities on the coronation of Leopold II. That he could hardly set himself to the task, is evident from a letter to Constanze of 3 october:
‘I had made up my mind to write the Adagio for the clockmaker right away and slip a few ducats in my dear wife’s hands; I did start—but unfortunately, because I hate the job, I wasn’t able to finish it.—I write some every day—but have to postpone as I get bored—and surely, if there wasn’t such an important reason to force myself, I would certainly leave off;— yes, if it were a large clock, and the thing would sound like a true organ, then it might be fun; but as it is, the work consists solely of little pipes, which sound high-pitched and too childish for my taste.’
However, it is tempting to believe that Mozart didn’t write that much at all while away, and after returning home in mid-november—perhaps the nine bar D minor sketch K.Anh.35(593a) was all he could actually show,—rather than restraining himself, he persuaded Deym to obtain a larger instrument instead, preferably fitted with low sounding stopped pipes. Obviously, the marvellous notes of K.594 bear witness to renewed relish and gusto.
Here is the piece commissioned by Count Deym. It starts off rather eerily, to my ears anyway. I find organs somewhat spooky sounding. One can imagine the effect it must have had on visitors to the gallery!
He certainly had a very interesting art collection, the sort of place I would find interesting to visit!
Here are some of the more charming items he had in his collection:
A singing mechanical canary which played several different pieces.(Mozart would have liked this one as he had a pet canary ).
An eight-foot high pendulum clock playing 12 musical pieces on steel rods, running without interruption for 8 days.
A musical clock whose chimes were accompanied by trumpets and drums parading in the background.( What fun!)
A writing machine.
I wonder where all these items are now!