Tuesday, 11 July 2006

A Photographic Link to the 'Ancien' Regime

This time next week I'll be on holiday in Austria - and to get in the mood I'm revising my Habsburg history and listening to Mozart and Johann Strauss CDs. Such preparations reminded me of the recent discovery of a unique photograph, reported by various newspapers and blogs such as Cally's Kitchen.

The photo (seen above) dates from 1840 and was taken at Altötting, home of the great shrine of the Black Madonna and near the Papal birthplace of Marktl-am-Inn. The gentleman in the centre is the Swiss composer, Max Keller, and the little old lady none other than Constance Mozart (1762-1842), widow of the composer, pictured just two years before her death. She looks like any other old lady in the 1840s but she truly belongs to another age - the twilight years of the glittering European courts on the eve of Revolution. It's fitting - and rather wonderful - that such an item has been discovered on Mozart's 250th birthday.

Early photographs are always fascinating and catapult you into bygone days. I remember reading in an Italian book that the first Pope to be photographed was Gregory XVI (1765-1846). I would love to see the daguerrotype taken on that occasion - does anyone know anything about it?


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