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March 16, 2011

Uncovered photo said to be of Chopin on deathbed in 1849

Wladyslaw Zuchowski of Gdansk recently reported the purchase of a daguerreotype from a private owner in Scotland. The image is dated 1849, the year Chopin died in Paris, and the head resting on the pillow sure looks like the great composer.

Experts are skeptical, as well they should be. Fraudulent things are always popping up. And in the case of Chopin, jokes have been known to be pulled, too -- years ago, a British record magazine announced with all due serious the discovery of a primitive recording device supposedly capturing Chopin at the piano. It was mostly hiss and pop and scratch, with a very dull performance of a mazurka or something, as I recall, but I know a few people who bought the idea for a while.

It will be interesting to see how this daguerreotype story develops (it probably won't be covered as painstakingly as the purported Ansel Adams negatives last year). Here's a video news clip about the alleged Chopin photo:

Posted by Tim Smith at 10:36 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Clef Notes


I don't think it looks like Chopin. The lips are too thin and the hair is parted on the wrong side. Compare for yourself by looking at a picture of his death mask at

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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