Category Archives: Iconography

The first Bach monument

 

On 23 April 1843 Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy made a ceremonial presentation of a monument to Bach in the courtyard of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, where Bach served as cantor and where his remains now lie.

Mendelssohn Bartholdy worked tirelessly to make the monument a reality. He offered suggestions about its details, gave concerts to raise the necessary funds, and handled much of the project’s organization. His many letters provide information about his commitment to it.

Now known as the Altes Bach-Denkmal, it may be the only example of a monument built by a composer to honor another.

This according to Ein Denkstein für den alten Prachtkerl: Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy und das alte Bach-Denkmal in Leipzig by Peter Wollny (Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2004). Above, a woodcut depiction from around 1850.

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Filed under Architecture, Baroque era, Iconography, Reception

Indian stamps redux

The music philatelist S. Sankaranarayanan has produced monthly articles for the magazine Sruti almost without a break since April 2004.

Each article covers the issuance of a stamp (or group of stamps) by the Indian Department of Posts and includes a philatelic report along with a first day cover and background information on the stamp’s subject—these have included exponents of the Karnatak and Hindustani traditions as well as Indian folk musicians, dancers, musicologists, and patrons of the arts.

Above, a first day cover of a 1961 stamp honoring the Karnatak composer Tyāgarāja (1767–1847); Sankaranarayanan’s article about this stamp appeared in Sruti 269 (February 2007), pp. 40–41.

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Filed under Asia, Iconography, Reception

Astérix and instruments

 

Astérix le Gaulois, a series of comics written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo between 1960 and 1999, received much acclaim for the attention to detail in Uderzo’s drawings of ancient civilizations.

Particularly interesting to an organologist are the illustrations of instruments—including carnyx, buccina, lur, bagpipe, harp, lyre, pipes, and drums—used by ancient Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, and Gauls.

In the free online resource Musical instruments of antiquity as illustrated in “The adventures of Asterix the Gaul” Daniel A Russell compares Uderzo’s illustrations to photographs of period instruments and comments on their acoustic qualities, performance techniques, and the roles they played in their respective societies, both in real history and as experienced by Astérix and his friends.

Above, Uderzo’s depiction of a banquet accompanied by a kithara, a double tibia, and a frame drum (click to enlarge).

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Filed under Antiquity, Humor, Iconography, Instruments, Resources, Visual art

Schubert deltiography

Schubert deltiography, a database produced by The Schubert Institute as part of its Schubert ographies website, is an open-access online resource for postcards bearing images relevant to Schubert—portraits, buildings, and so on. In addition to reproductions of both sides of the cards, entries include detailed annotations for deltiologists and other interested parties.

Above, a postcard depicting Schubert playing the “trout” quintet (piano quintet in A Major, D. 667) with Mozart, Haydn, Bach, and Gluck in Heaven (click to enlarge). The audience includes Beethoven and Wagner; leave a comment if you can identify others!

Below, a terrestrial performance of the work’s first movement by members of the Amadeus Quartet with Clifford Curzon.

Related article: Postcards

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Filed under Iconography, Reception, Resources, Romantic era

Banknotes redux

SPIN: Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms, a free online resource dedicated to the study of the Romantic period in Western culture, includes a database devoted to iconography on banknotes, with a special section for composers. As of this writing 33 portraits of composers on banknotes are documented therein, all with full-color reproductions and many with annotations as well.

Above, Clara Schumann on a German 100-mark note issued in 1989. Below, Antonín Dvořák assissts with instructions for banknote origami.

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Filed under Iconography, Reception, Resources, Romantic era

Porträtsammlung Friedrich Nicolas Manskopf

Porträtsammlung Friedrich Nicolas Manskopf  is a free online resource that presents portraits drawn from the collection of the Frankfurt wine dealer Friedrich Nicolas Manskopf (1869–1928) of composers, instrumentalists, singers, actors, directors, playwrights, and dancers, along with stage scene stills, views of buildings, and allegorical pictures of music and stage situations.

Comprising about 12,500 photographs from 1860 to 1944 and 4900 printed graphics from about 1550 to 1920, the collection is indexed by person, ensemble, or building; by persons involved as photographers, engravers, or lithographers; and by the publishing years of photos and prints.

A general search field enables the search of professions, roles, playwrights, titles, years, and technique of the portraits; a combined search is possible using the Bibliotheksportal at the hosting institution, the Universität Frankfurt am Main. Higher-resolution copies of the images may be ordered for a fee.

Above, a publicity photograph from the collection of the the legendary trio of Alfred Cortot, Jacques Thibaud, and Pablo Casals; below, the trio plays the first movement of Schubert’s piano trio in B flat, op. 99, D.898, in 1926.

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Filed under Iconography, Resources

Bach’s countenance

In 2008 scholars at the Centre for Forensic and Medical Art at the University of Dundee used forensic techniques to produce a reconstruction of Bach’s face on the basis of his skull.

According to its author, Markus von Hänsel-Hohenhausen, Vom Sichtbaren zur Wirklichkeit: Das wahre Antlitz Johann Sebastian Bachs (Frankfurt am Main: Frankfurter Verlagsgruppe, 2009) raises fundamental questions relating to image theory, considering the power of the image, the possibility of accessing reality through subjectivity (that is, the objectivity that arises from a dual subjectivity), the rendering of real “presence” by means of technically accurate representation, and the physicality (and noticeable absence of spirit) that results from the application of technical methods alone, e.g., in the case of Andy Warhol’s work.

Beginning with reflections on the royal portrait, Christian ritual, and Jesus Christ’s crown of thorns, the book then delivers a clear statement about the significance of portraits of Bach, at the same time offering therein an answer to the question: Does a person really have a true countenance?

Above, the reconstruction with the 1746 portrait by Elias Gottlob Haußmann, the only portrait Bach is known to have sat for.

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Filed under Baroque era, Curiosities, Iconography

Music stamps redux

Music philately began with the issuance of some of the very first postage stamps in the mid-nineteenth century: The inaugural issues of several European countries included images of post horns. Purists may argue that post horns were mere signaling devices, but at that time they were already being used in classical compositions, so their depictions may be considered musical images.

Other nineteenth-century stamps featured depictions of prominent political figures who were also musicians—for example, Argentina issued a stamp honoring the statesman and composer Juan Bautista Alberdi in 1888 (left)—but they were concerned with politics rather than music. The first explicitly musical stamp was Poland’s issuance honoring Ignacy Jan Paderewski in 1919.

Through the 1950s countries increasingly celebrated Western classical musicians and composers. In the 1960s all aspects of musical life became potential subjects—institutions, festivals, instruments, dancers, and so on—and non-European countries asserted their national identities with images of their own traditional and historical music cultures. In the later twentieth century images of popular and jazz musicians gained increasing demand .

This according to A checklist of postage stamps about music by Johann A. Norstedt (London: Philatelic Music Circle, 1997), which lists some 14,000 stamps with music-related images.

Above, stamps issued in Northern Cyprus in 1985, which was designated European Music Year by the Europa Federation (click images to enlarge). Below, a curious video about Robert Burns iconography.

Related article: Postage stamps.

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John Abbott, jazz photographer

Throughout his career, John Abbott’s award-winning images of jazz have been featured on over 250 album and magazine covers; he has been the primary cover photographer for JazzTimes magazine since 2002.

On 7 September 2010, the 80th birthday of the jazz legend Sonny Rollins, Abbott’s Saxophone Colossus: A Portrait of Sonny Rollins was published by Abrams. As Rollins’s photographer of choice for the past 20 years, Abbott captured images of him at home and at work; essays by the jazz critic Bob Blumenthal are included.

Below, Abbott and Blumenthal discuss the making of the book.

Related article: The Jazz Baron

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Filed under Iconography, Jazz and blues

Patent applications

Patent applications for new instruments—or for improvements to already existing ones—usually involve one or more technical drawings. These can be of historical interest for several reasons; for example, the article Piano wars: The legal machinations of London pianoforte makers, 1795–1806 by George S. Bozarth and Margaret Debenham (RMA research chronicle XLII, 45–108) makes use of original drawings and descriptions for patents by William Southwell (1794) and his son, William junior (1837), to reconstruct the issues and outcomes of legal actions involving many of England’s top piano manufacturers in the early nineteenth century.

Reproduced above is a page from Brian Hayden’s 1984 patent application for a new way of arranging the buttons on a concertina.

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Filed under Iconography, Instruments, Publication types