Mozart &
Material Culture



Dresden 1789: silverpoint etching by Doris Stock (Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg)

While widely accepted as an authentic portrait of Mozart[1], a silverpoint etching by Doris Stock, said to have been executed during Mozart’s visit to Dresden in 1789, is nevertheless problematic. Otto Erich Deutsch states as fact that ‘On 16 or 17 April [1789] Mozart visited the consistorial councillor Christian Gottfried Körner, whose sister-in-law Doris Stock did a drawing of Mozart.’[2] Yet there is no reference in Mozart’s letters to Körner or Stock, and the earliest accounts of his acquaintance with them date from almost a century later. Friedrich Förster reported in 1879 that Mozart visited the Körner household at least once during his visit to Dresden and played selections from Don Giovanni for them[3] while a few years earlier, in 1871, Gustav Parthey reported from Doris Stock’s memoirs:

  1. Mozart himself, during his short stay in Dresden, was an almost daily visitor to the Körner’s house. For the charming and witty Doris he was all aflame, and with his south German vivacity he paid her the naivest compliments. He generally came shortly before dinner and, after he had poured out a stream of gallant phrases, he sat down to improvise at the pianoforte. In the next room the table was meanwhile being set and the soup dished up, and the servant announced that dinner was served. But who could tear himself away when Mozart was improvising! The soup was allowed to grow cold and the roast to burn, simply so that we could continue to listen to the magic sounds which the master, completely absorbed in what he was doing and unaware of the rest of the world, conjured from the instrument. Yet one finally grows tired even of the highest pleasures when the stomach makes known its demands. After the soup had grown cold a few times while Mozart played, he was briefly taken to task. “Mozart”, said Doris, gently laying her snow-white arm on his shoulder, “Mozart, we are going in to dine; do you want to eat with us?” – “Your servant, Mademoiselle, I shall be with you in a moment.” But it was precisely Mozart who never did come; he played on undisturbed. Thus we often had the rarest Mozartian musical accompaniment to our meal, Doris concluded her narrative, and when we rose from table we found him still sitting at the keyboard.[4]

There is no corroborating evidence for either account, and Doris Stock’s self-serving version singularly fails to mention a portrait. Whether Mozart was an almost daily visitor at Körner’s is also open to question: the composer arrived at Dresden about 6 o’clock on the evening of 12 April and went more or less directly to visit the singer Josepha Duschek at the home of the war secretary Johann Leopold Neumann; on 13 April he gave a private concert at the ‘Hotel de Pologne’ where he was lodging; he played at court on the evening of the 14th and went to the opera (Domenico Cimarosa’s Le trame deluse) on the 15th; and he departed on the 18th. None of this rules out the possibility that Mozart and the Körner’s were close or that he visited them during the day: dinner at the time was a mid-day meal and most of Mozart’s engagements were in the evening. But it does suggest that Deutsch’s dating of the portrait specifically to 16 or 17 April is not based on any positive evidence but on the fact that these are the only two days during Mozart’s stay in Dresden when his whereabouts cannot to some extent be accounted for.

A slip of paper formerly attached to the back of the picture, but now lost, complicates matters. When it was removed from the etching sometime in the early twentieth century, it was shorn of its left, and part of its right, sides; as a result, the facsimile edition ‘reconstructs’ what is believed to be the original text. Yet it was not necessary to guess what the missing text might have been: the entire slip of paper had been transcribed as early as 1899, in Emil Vogel’s article on Mozart portraits, before some of the text was lost.[5]

Zettel as it now survives Reconstructed text by G. Geffray (2005) Original text after E. Vogel (1899)
[Anna Maria Körner, after 1832?:]
Erhält Erhält
[?...] Förster Förster
[Friedrich Christoph Förster, 1859:]
von Doris Stock ... von Doris Stock Dieses von Doris Stock
resden 178 … [D]resden 178[9] In Dresden 1787
eben gezeichn … [?von L]eben gezeichn[et…] Nach dem Leben gezeichnete
niβ Mozar … [?Bild]niβ Mozar[ts] Bildniβ Mozarts
mir von G. Koh … mir von G. Koh[?rner] wurde mir von Th. Körners
ter geschenkt und … [?wei]ter geschenkt und . . . Mutter geschenkt und von
ir Carl Eckert … [?D]ir Carl Eckert […] mir Carl Eckert.
22/5 F. Förste … 22/5 F. Förste[r…] Berlin, 23/5 F. Förster

Much of the attempted reconstruction is accurate enough although at least two details of the original text, different from the reconstructed text, are significant. First, the slip was not written in the early nineteenth century, close to the execution of the portrait, as Geffray claims[6], but at third-hand, in 1859, some seventy years after the event it purports to document — and, as it happens, a year after an engraving based of the portrait, said to be of Mozart, had already been published. What is more, Förster cannot necessarily be considered a reliable witness; he was later exposed as having falsified the historical record in his history of the life and poetry of Theodor Körner[7]. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the original slip of paper states that the etching was executed in 1787, not 1789. Yet Mozart wasn’t in Dresden in 1787 and Stock, as far as we know, wasn’t in Vienna or Prague[8].

There is, accordingly, no unequivocal contemporaneous evidence that Mozart, Körner and Stock met in Dresden in 1789; the surviving prose accounts of their alleged meetings say nothing about a portrait; the date for its presumed execution is fixed only by our lack of knowledge of Mozart’s whereabouts on two days during his stay in Dresden; and the best information we have, the slip of paper formerly attached to the etching, is third-hand and contradicts the presumed date of 1789 for the etching’s execution, suggesting instead a date, 1787, that is biographically impossible. None of this is to say that the Stock is not Mozart. It may well be. But insofar as the evidence is concerned, there is little reason to believe it must be what it is purported to be.

The Stock portrait is also included in the Mozart Portraits theme.

[1] See Mozart-Bilder, Bilder Mozarts. Ein Porträt zwischen Wunsch und Wirklichkeit, ed. Christoph Großpietsch (Salzburg: Verlag Anton Pustet, 2013), 74, and the facsimile edition, Geneviève Geffray, ed., Das letzte Porträt Wolfgang Amadé Mozarts. Die Silberstiftzeichnung von Doris Stock (Salzburg, 2005).

[2] Otto Erich Deutsch, Mozart. A Documentary Biography (London, 1966), 340. The same claim is made by Geffray, Das letzte Porträt Wolfgang Amadé Mozarts, 6, 14 and 20.

[3] Friedrich Förster, ed., Theodor Körners Werke. Vollständigste Ausgabe mit mehreren bisher ungedruckten Gedichten und Briefen. Nebst einer Biographid des Dichters (Berlin, 1879), i.40.

[4] Deutsch, Mozart. A Documentary Biography, 568-9.

[5] For the Zettel as it now survives and Geffray’s transcription, see Das letzte Porträt Wolfgang Amadé Mozarts, 4 and 8; for the original text, see Emil Vogel, ‘Mozart-Portraits’, Jahrbuch der Musikbibliothek Peters 6 (1899), 29.

[6] Geffray, Das letzte Porträt Wolfgang Amadé Mozarts, 8, 16 and 22.

[7] John Stone and Louise Williams, ‘Portraits of Mozart. Revising the Iconography’, Apollo: The International Magazine of the Arts 34/357 (November 1991), 314.

[8] Christoph Grosspietsch, ‘Die späten Mozart-Bildnisse (um 1789) von Posch, Stock und Lange’, Mozart-Jahrbuch 2009/2010, 49, dismisses the contradiction out of hand, suggesting that the date 1787 on the Zettel may simply be an error, either of the now-lost original or Vogel’s transcriptions of it.

Bibliographic Reference
Geneviève Geffray, ed. Das letzte Porträt Wolfgang Amadé Mozarts. Die Silberstiftzeichnung von Doris Stock (Salzburg, 2005) // Christian Gries, 'Johanna Dorothea Stock. Marginalien zu einem Mozart-Porträt', Acta Mozartiana 36/4 (1989), 81-89 // Christoph Großpietsch, ed. Mozart-Bilder, Bilder Mozarts. Ein Porträt zwischen Wunsch und Wirklichkeit (Salzburg: Verlag Anton Pustet, 2013) // Emil Vogel, ‘Mozart-Portraits’, Jahrbuch der Musikbibliothek Peters 6 (1899), 11-37