Chopin and the Romantic Salon: Exhibition shines spotlight on importance of the ‘moveable meeting place for 19th century jet-set’ on the composer’s career
A treat awaits Chopin fans in the capital at the Royal Castle’s exhibition dedicated to the pianist in the run up to the XVIII International Chopin Competition.
The exhibition gathers items connected to the composer from Poland, France and Spain, including handwritten musical scores, portraits of people important in his life and his death mask.
Labelled Chopin and the Romantic Salon, the exhibition shines a spotlight on the important institution in the social life of the 19th century, which was the salon, a kind of moveable meeting place for the nineteenth century jet-set.
The meetings would take place in the drawing rooms of influential people and they were places to see and be seen. Refined taste ruled and men and women of the higher classes would discuss new phenomena and trends in art.
Visitors to the exhibition, which opens on Saturday (4 September) and runs to November 14, can learn about the importance of these meetings in Chopin’s career.
As a boy, he performed in drawing rooms in Warsaw and in the manor houses of the nobility. Later, in Paris he was a coveted guest of the European aristocracy.
Exhibition curator Aleksandra Buszta-Bąk said: “In today’s world, the salon can seem like an alien concept. The world that Chopin was part of is now far removed from our own. That is why I want to show visitors not just Chopin himself but also the world he lived in.”
The central exhibit, Henryk Siemiradzki's painting 'Chopin in the salon of Prince Antoni Radziwiłł in 1829’, shows this milieu well.
On loan from the private collection of John Radziwiłł who lives in New York, the canvass was shown in Poland at various venues in the 1880s.
Since that time, though, the work has not appeared in Poland until it went on display on Sunday at Nieborów Palace, near Łódź.
“It has not been exhibited in Poland for over 130 years, but thanks to the initiative of the Michał Radziwiłł Three Trumpets Foundation and the support of the Ministry of Culture, National Heritage and Sport, it was brought back to Poland and could become an important element of our exhibition,” said Aleksandra Buszta-Bąk.
The exhibition features forty-seven pieces, including paintings, letters, music manuscripts and commemorative objects connected with Chopin. Particularly noteworthy are nine of the composer's handwritten music scores.
“These unique testimonies of the creative process document the crystallisation of musical ideas and the process of putting them onto score paper,” said Buszta-Bąk.
An unusual exhibit is a lady’s shoulder covering known as a shrug, which was worn by George Sand, the French writer and Chopin’s long-time companion up to his death in 1849.
The shrug has never been displayed in Poland before and has only recently been acquired by the National Chopin Institute in Warsaw. “When I found out about it, I knew I just had to have it for the exhibition,” Buszta-Bąk said.
Chopin’s death and how it was experienced in the Romantic era is highlighted. A fascinating exhibit is an invitation to the composer’s funeral, which features a small lock of his hair,
A painting shows a scene with Chopin on his death bed being sung to by Delfina Potocka.
Accompanying the exhibition is a series of piano recitals by world-class pianists, including Poland’s Szymon Nehring, who was a finalist in the 2015 International Chopin Competition.
Chopin and the Romantic Salon comes as an appetite whetter for International Chopin Competition taking place in October in Warsaw this year.
The prestigious competition comes round only once every five years and is regarded as the World Cup and Olympics of the piano world rolled into one.