The Portrait of Bach That Was Lost In World War Two -
An Authentic "Alternative" to the Haussmann Image of Johann Sebastian Bach in his early 60s Pages at The Face Of Bach
The Face Of Bach
This remarkable photograph is not a computer generated composite; the original of the Weydenhammer Portrait Fragment, all that
remains of the portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach that belonged to his pupil Johann Christian Kittel, is resting gently on the surface
of the original of the 1748 Elias Gottlob Haussmann Portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach.
1748 Elias Gottlob Haussmann Portrait, Courtesy of William H. Scheide, Princeton, New Jersey
Weydenhammer Portrait Fragment, ca. 1733, Artist Unknown, Courtesy of the Weydenhammer Descendants
Photograph by Teri Noel Towe
©Teri Noel Towe, 2001, All Rights Reserved
The Portrait of Bach That Was Lost In World War Two
An Authentic "Alternative" to the Haussmann Image
of Johann Sebastian Bach in his early 60s
During the first weeks of my sophomore year at Deerfield Academy, in Deerfield, Massachusetts, in the fall of 1963, I stumbled
across, in a green buckram bound copy of back issues of The Musical Quarterly, Prof. Gerhard Herz's meticulous, perceptive,
and scrupulously fair assessment of Heinrich Besseler's controversial and flawed but undeniably important monograph on the Bach
portraits, Fünf Echte Bildnisse Johann Sebastian Bachs (Cassel, 1956), .
The illustrations that accompanied the Gerhard Herz review included two portraits of Bach that I had never seen before, the image
on the left that is sometimes referred to as the Berlin Portrait, because it was in an art gallery in Berlin that it was first spotted in
1941, and the image on the right, the 1791 David copy of the 1746 Haussmann Portrait, both of which disappeared during World
War II and both of which were then assumed to have been destroyed in the bombings:
While I learned in late March, 2001, from my friend and esteemed colleague, Christoph Wolff, that the David portrait did, in fact,
survive the War, recently had been located, and now is in the collection of the Bach Archiv in Leipzig, the Berlin Portrait, last
known to have been in the possession of a wealthy collector in the Ruhr Valley, disappeared during the saturation bombings in 1944
and still has not reappeared, at least to my knowledge, and certainly to my disappointment.
I shall defer a discussion of the David copy for another day; for the present I shall only say that I consider this painting to be a
vastly undervalued and underappreciated image, and one that is essential to any examination of the convoluted, enigmatic, and
unhappy history of the 1746 Haussmann Portrait. I must also say, however, that the more I study it the more I find myself
wondering if this remarkable painting is not an authentic "synthesis" of the 1746 and the 1748 Haussmann portraits
But I find that I can no longer postpone an examination of the Berlin Portrait. Like the Volbach Portrait, this painting, which
survives only in a couple of less than satisfactory photographs, small in size and over-exposed, from the catalogues of a couple of
Berlin art dealers, has haunted me and fascinated me for many years.
Is the Berlin Portrait, in fact, an accurate depiction of the facial features of Johann Sebastian Bach? If so, why was it painted and for
whom? And who was the artist? At least on the basis of the admittedly less than satisfactory photogravure which is the only image
with which we have to work, whoever that painter was, he or she arguably was not an artist of the calibre of Elias Gottlob
Haussmann or the as yet unidentified painter who was responsible for the Weydenhammer Portrait Fragment, which, as I have
proven beyond a reasonable doubt elsewhere here at The Face Of Bach, is all that remains of the long lost portrait of Bach that
belonged to his pupil Johann Christian Kittel.
Normally, a scholarly examination of this kind would begin with a discussion of the provenance of the painting, but I am going to
take the liberty of putting the evidentiary cart before the scholarly horse, if I may, because, as those of you who have read The
Queens College Lecture already know, it is my contention that the primary issue is the accuracy of the depiction of the facial
features. After all, if it isn't Bach's face, its provenance is not important. Once the depiction is determined to be an accurate
description of the face, however, the question of the portrait's provenance takes on great importance.
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Copyright, Teri Noel Towe, 2000 , 2002
Unless otherwise credited, all images of the Weydenhammer Portrait: Copyright, The Weydenhammer Descendants, 2000
All Rights Reserved
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