Of all the magnificent rooms of Schönbrunn Palace, one is particularly special to me, and, I would imagine, to any Mozart-enthusiast. This is the Hall of Ceremonies, dedicated with its large paintings to the wedding in October 1760 of soon-to-be emperor Joseph II to Isabella of Parma. On one of those paintings, in the middle of the crowd a little Wolfgang Mozart can be seen, with his father, amidst the wedding guests. To avoid a weary tourist missing this priceless detail, or to protect the spot from the awed breaths of the initiated, attention is drawn by a plexiglass square covering exactly this part of the painting. Check out the spot for yourself on the 360° view of the room with this cool link. It’s the painting to the right of Maria Theresa’s famous, majestical portrait.
The nicest story about this painting is that, of course, Mozart was not in reality present at the wedding. In 1760 he was 4 years old and absolutely unheard of by anyone, as his talents had yet to surface. The little man would not set foot in Vienna until October 1762, when he made his Schönbrunn debut to huge applause. This legendary event must have been the reason for Maria Theresa to request her court painter, Martin van Meytens, to add the new celebrity to the canvas, 2 years after the fact. Technically this would not have been a major problem, as the painting is supposed to have been a multi-year project anyway, and historical considerations were clearly of no concern to the empress.
All this is well-known in Mozart circles, and the Redoutensaal painting is often reproduced in the Mozart books, e.g. quite splendidly so in Mozart: The Golden Years: 1781-1791, H.C. Robbins Landon, 1989/2006, plate XXII.
I was therefore quite puzzled when recently I came across another detail of a painting, also by van Meytens, also of the same wedding, and also with a strikingly similar little man tucked away, this time up in the box with the musicians. It looked so much like the music-festival painting, yet it wasn’t. Not being in a position to hurry off to Schönbrunn in person, it took me some pains to find out through the internet which painting this could have been taken from. I still have trouble understanding the outcome: unmistakenly this is a fragment of the painting that actually hangs in the very same Hall of Ceremonies. It’s directly opposite, left of the mirror, depicting the wedding-meal in the very same Redoutensaal and can be seen through the same cool link. I am not an expert, but surely there can be no doubt: if it’s Mozart in the music-festival painting, then it’s Mozart in the wedding-meal painting.
Questions rise. Why did I not know this when I was in Schönbrunn? Why isn’t this mentioned in the guide books, that all clearly mention Mozart in the music-festival painting? What about the plexiglass? Why have I never seen this in the Mozart books? One consoling thought: at least I have (another) excuse to make it to Vienna again sometime soon!