Bronze cast of Chopin’s hand made 'seconds after he died' goes on sale for £18,000
A cast of Chopin's hand made from a mould taken on the day of the composer's death in 1849 has gone on display in the UK as part of a sale of classical music treasures at London Art Week.
One of several casts made by French sculptor and friend of Chopin, Auguste Clésinger, the cast is unique in that it is the only one with the sculptor's signature on it.
After learning of Chopin's death, Clésinger ran to his bedside to make a death mask of his face and a cast of his left hand.
Chopin's death mask was modified at the request of his partner George Sand to make the composer's face look prettier, but the cast of his hand shows it as it looked on the day of his death.
After the composer's death on 17 October 1849, Clésinger made more than a dozen works dedicated to him, the most famous of which is the Chopin monument in the Pere-Lachaise cemetery in Paris.
The cast’s owner is a private collector from Western Europe who lent it to the exhibition with a guide price of GBP 18,000.
Clésinger made the touching bronze cast using a chiselled technique, meaning that the surface has a deliberate rough texture.
On the day of Chopin’s death, Clésinger was just one among a whole crowd of mourning adorers who had gathered in his apartment when news spread that the composer’s end was approaching.
Opera singer Pauline Viardot famously described the scene saying: “All the great ladies of Paris considered it their duty to faint in his room, where they were also crowded with artists sketching him hastily, and a daguerreotropist even wanted to move the bed to the window so that the sun would fall on the dying man."
In the words of writer Jules Janin: “In an adjoining room, it is not known how many duchesses, countesses, marquises and even a few townswomen awaited the hour of his demise on their knees.”
The cast is being displayed by the gallery Ben Elwes Fine Arts at the London Art Week, 3-8 July, which is a joint initiative between London's private art galleries and auction houses, who are jointly organising a series of exhibitions and accompanying events to promote art to the public.