Photo of Mozart’s wife a hoax

TOO good to be true? Apparently.

There was considerable fanfare this month when a number of news organizations proclaimed the discovery of what they said was a print of the only authentic photograph of Constanze Mozart, the composer’s widow, taken when she was 78. But scholars have now labeled the claim a hoax.

Such media outlets as the BBC and the New York Times, which cited the British network, initially reported that authorities in the German town of Altotting had found and authenticated a print made from a daguerreotype showing Constanze outside the home of Max Keller, a Swiss composer she was said to have visited regularly.

According to these reports, Constanze is at the front left, next to Keller. (His wife, Josefa, is on the right. In the back row are the Kellers’ daughters on the right, Keller’s brother-in-law Phillip Lattner and the family’s cook.) The original was said to have been taken in October 1840 and the copy made in the second half of the century.


“I am terribly sorry to disappoint people on this forum,” Agnes Selby, author of “Constanze, Mozart’s Beloved,” wrote on the Classical Music Guide Forums website on July 8. “But this is certainly not Constanze but somebody’s aunt. The whole story was concocted by Keller’s grandson....

“Constanze Mozart was crippled by arthritis by 1840 and died in 1842. There is absolutely no way she could have traveled to visit Maximillian Keller during the period when the photograph was taken. Contrary to the statements made in the newspaper, Constanze had no contact with Keller since 1826.”

Michael Lorenz at the University of Vienna’s Institute of Musicology has also refuted the photo’s authenticity.

“The ‘newly discovered’ picture of Constanze Mozart has already been published twice in the 1950s,” Lorenz wrote on the blog Sounds & Fury. “For decades it has been known as a hoax among Mozart experts. There are no outdoor photographs of groups of people dating from 1840 because the lenses invented by Joseph Petzval, which were to make such portraits possible, were not available yet.”

Meanwhile, Calendar hears there’s a bridge in Brooklyn coming up for sale.


Chris Pasles