Feb 12, 2013

A Few Grassi Trifles

The Viennese painter Joseph Mathias Grassi (1757–1838) has recently entered the spotlight owing to a supposed miniature portrait of Mozart that has been attributed to him. Since there have been doubts and uncertainties regarding Joseph Grassi's correct middle name which is incorrectly given as "Maria" in a book, recently published by the Mozarteum in Salzburg, I take the opportunity to present a few primary sources pertaining to Grassi and his family. Although the basic genealogical facts regarding Grassi have been published 50 years ago by Heinz Schöny, art historians seem to have completely ignored this study. This resulted in a painter named Josef "Maria" Grassi entering the world of Wikiality.

Joseph Mathias Grassi: self portrait (private property)

On 11 June 1754 the goldsmith Ottilio Grassi ("Gebürtig zu Utini in Welschland aus den[!] Venitianischen Gebieth") married Antonia Winterhalter (1737–1817), the daughter of the goldsmith Mathias Winterhalter:

The entry concerning the wedding of Joseph Grassi's parents on 11 June 1754 at the Schottenkirche (A-Ws, Tom. 30, fol. 58r)

The entry concerning the baptism of Joseph Grassi's mother Antonia Winterhalter on 18 January 1737 at St. Stephen's Cathedral (A-Wd, Tom. 70, fol. 83v)

Ottilio Valentino Grassi had been born on 10 May 1723 in Udine, son of Valentino Grassi (1680–1762) and his wife Livia. In 1742 Ottilio Grassi began his six-year apprenticeship in Vienna. In 1760 he was appointed master goldsmith and in 1761 he took the oath as "Wiener Bürger" (Viennese Citizen). Schöny gives Ottilio Grassi's date of death as "after 1782". Grassi's appearance in the Steuerfassion (the municipal tax register) shows that he was still alive in 1788.

Ottilio Grassi, listed as tenant of a small apartment on the sixth floor of the house Stadt 1356 (today Himmelpfortgasse 7) (A-Wsa, Steueramt B 34/5, fol. 400)

Ottilio Grassi's first son Anton Mathias was born on 26 June 1755 in the "Blumenthalisches Haus" am Hof (Stadt No. 310, today Am Hof 6a) and baptized in the Schottenkirche with his maternal grandparents officiating as godparents.

The baptismal entry of the sculptor Anton Mathias Grassi (1755-1807)
(A-Ws, Tom. 34, fol. 247v)

Auf dem Hof in 1778 with Anton and Joseph Grassi's birthplace ("Zur kleinen Weintraube" No. 310) on the right

Ottilio Grassi's next child, Joseph Mathias, was born on 22 April 1757 and like his older brother he got his middle name from his grandfather (and godfather), the goldsmith Mathias Winterhalter (1696–1763).

The 1757 baptismal entry of the painter Joseph Mathias Grassi (with his godfather misnamed "Winterhauer"). Note the f in "auf dem Hof" which looks like a double f, but is not (A-Ws, Tom. 34, fol. 334v).

Consequently Ottilio Grassi's two daughters got their middle name from their maternal grandmother Margaretha Winterhalter, née Poser (1715–1775): Elisabetha Margaretha Grassi was born on 29 October 1759 (A-Ws, Tom. 35, fol. 125r) and Eleonora Margaretha on 24 September 1761 (A-Ws, Tom. 35, fol. 240r). The next child of the Grassi family was Johann Gottfried Grassi, born on 12 January 1766 (A-Ws, Tom. 36, fol. 156r), who was named after his godfather, the K.K. Hof Cammer Registraturs Adjunct Johann Gottfried Anhalt (who in 1754 had been Ottilio Grassi's best man). The last child of the Grassi family was born on 7 April 1769 (A-Wd, Tom. 88, fol. 73v) and christened Johann Christoph after his godfather, the K.K. Hofkammer Concipist Christoph von Keßler. Keßler was a legendary freemason who in 1782 seems to have been responsible for Joseph and Anton Grassi joining the Viennese Masonic lodge "Zur Beständigkeit". Ottilio Grassi died on 1 April 1791 in Vienna, and on 3 April was buried in the St. Marx cemetery (A-Wd, Bahrleibuch 1791, fol. 104r).

The seal of the Masonic lodge "Zur Beständigkeit" (which was disbanded in 1785) with its motto "STAT TIRMITER"

Joseph Mathias Grassi left Vienna after he was denied a travel grant which was given to Heinrich Füger. But since Füger already went to Rome in 1776, while Grassi still remained in Vienna, something seems to be amiss in this chronology of events. Either Grassi went to Poland much earlier, or his departure had nothing to do with Füger. Grassi did not leave Vienna in 1790 – as is stated in the literature – but already in 1785. The earliest source for Grassi's stay abroad is a letter he wrote on 3 January 1786 from Annopol to his close friend and fellow mason Franz Xaver Brabbée (1758–1831). From this letter (A-Wst, I.N. 68608) we not only learn that Grassi had just fallen in love with a blue-eyed girl, but also that at that time he had already been in Poland for at least four months. Being a fervent freemason, Grassi in his letters to a fellow mason  used the masonic date "ab anno lucis":

The date "30 April 1787" written by Grassi in masonic code (A-Wst, I.N. 51693)

It seems that by leaving Vienna, Grassi fared much better than most Austrian painters of his time. In addition to his income as a freelance portraitist, by 1805 he already drew an annual income of 2,400 Thaler (which the Neuer Nekrolog der Deutschen in 1840 was to call "Westengeld") from Augustus, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg whose poetry Grassi also used as subjects for a number of paintings. The villa in the Plauenscher Grund in Dresden that Grassi bought at that time was unfortunately destroyed in 1857.

The "Villa Grassi" near Dresden (which had to make way for the now defunct Felsenkeller Brauerei)

The "Gothaischer Geheimer Legations-Rath" Joseph Grassi, who after he had been awarded the title "Ritter des Königlich Sächsischen Civil-Verdienst-Ordens" always called himself "von Grassi", died a wealthy man on 7 January 1838 at his home at Moritzstraße 752 in Dresden. His grave on the Old Catholic Cemetery is not preserved. Since his work mostly consisted of miniature portraits of members of the nobility and other wealthy citizens most of his paintings are in private ownership today and can rarely be seen in exhibitions. This public underrepresentation of his artistic oeuvre seems to be the main reason that weak and technically flawed pieces of work, such as the *not really new* supposed Mozart portrait are being attributed to this great artist.

© Dr. Michael Lorenz 2013

Updated: 10 August 2020

Feb 10, 2013

Mozart's Godson

On 29 April 1835, Wolfgang Amadeus Hempel was baptised in the parish church "Zur Heiligen Dreifaltigkeit" in Vienna's Alservorstadt. The fifth child of Friedrich August Hempel, music teacher from Pirna in Saxony, and his wife Maximiliana, née Rattay, received two remarkable names from his godfather Wolfgang Amade Nebe. Nebe, an official of the conscription office of the Vienna City Council, along with the child's father and the sacristan of the parish, confirmed with his signature that "it is the explicit desire of the [Protestant] father that this boy is to be raised catholic."

"NB Dieser Knabe wird auf ausdrückliches Verlangen / des Vaters katholisch erzogen. Friedrich August / Hempel als Vater. / Wolfgang Amade Nebemp Magistrat. Conscrip[tions] A:[mts] Officier / Breitenfeld No 15 als Zeug / Johann Hackler Meßner in der Alservorstadt als Zeuge." (Alservorstadt 17, fol. 118)

Wolfgang Amade? These names were highly unusual at this time in Vienna, and at first glance, they suggest that Nebe's father had been an admirer of Mozart who wanted to express this devotion in the choice of names for his son. Further research, however, has shown that Wolfgang Amade Nebe, born in 1787, was in fact named after his godfather Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The entry concerning his baptism in the records of the Vienna Piarist Church looks as follows.

[Maius 1787]
e. 30 ebend[er]selbe [the priest Julius Gabelhofer] Wolfgang / Gottlieb V. [father] Andreas Nebè fürstl[ich] Palmischer / Kammerdiener M. [mother] Franziska geb. v. Wanderer Haupt / manns fräule [godfather] Johann Sattmann / Vizetumamtschreiber/ anstatt und im Nam[en] des / H[errn] Amadeus Wolfgang / Mozart Kapellmeisters kath[olisch] J[oseph]st.[adt] schöne Schäferin 45 [Josefstädter Straße 11]. [midwife] Stadlerinn.

The godfather and his substitute: "Johann Sattmann Vizetumamtsschreiber instead and on behalf of Mr. Amadeus Wolfgang Mozart capellmeister" (Maria Treu, Tom. 5, fol. 351)

The discovery of Mozart as godfather resembles an unknown room that suddenly opens in Mozart's life. The godchild's father Andreas Nebe (b. 1741 in Hettstedt in Saxony, d. 23 February 1811 in Vienna), was a chamberlain of Count Karl Joseph von Palm-Gundelfingen (1749–1814) who must have made Mozart's acquaintance at the Count's palace on the Obere Schenkenstraße.

Andreas Nebe ("Newe") in the 1788 tax register, paying 42 gulden annual rent for one room, a chamber and a kitchen on the second floor of Josephstadt 45 (A-Wsa, Steueramt B34/25, fol. 99)

Palm-Gundelfingen was a great lover of music and was also one of the subscribers of Mozart's 1784 concerts in the Trattnerhof. The baptism took place on 30 May 1787, in the Piarist Church of Maria Treu, the parish church of a part of the Josephstadt. Mozart could not be present which may have been caused by the fact that on this very day he received word of his father's death on 28 May 1787. Therefore he was substituted by the state official Johann Sattmann (1745–1800), a friend of Nebe or Mozart or both (see the picture above, the key passage in the baptismal entry reading: "anstatt und im Nam[en] des H[errn] Amadeus Wolfgang Mozart Kapellmeisters"). Sattmann was a close friend of the Fröhlich family. His daughter Anna was a singer who in 1803/04 took part in several concerts at the Augarten, and in 1804, was hired by Domenico Guardasoni to the Prague Opera. In 1805, in Prague, she married the singer Christian Wilhelm Häser. The only person present at the christening of Wolfgang Amade Nebe, who could actually be linked to Mozart, was the midwife Sophia Stadler (1724–1790), mother of the two legendary clarinet players Anton and Johann Stadler.

Wolfgang Amade Nebe attended the Piaristengymnasium (where he must have met Karl Thomas Mozart who also attended this school) and in 1807 became an unpaid employee of the conscription office of the Vienna Magistrate (which was in charge of keeping track of the male populace that was liable to military service). In 1813 he was appointed a definite employee at this office and on 25 November 1813 took the oath as "Wiener Bürger" (Viennese Citizen).

Wolfgang Amade Nebe, signing as sworn Viennese Citizen (A-Wsa, Bürgerprotokoll, Rep. 96, No 11, 1805-14, fol. 215r)

Nebe as "Wolfgang Nevée Magistratischer Conscriptions Assesits[sic] led." on an 1830 conscription sheet of Breitenfeld No. 15 (A-Wsa, Konskriptionsamt, KB Breitenfeld 15)

One year after the death of his mother in 1836, Nebe married Anna Dander, née Bartl (1783-1865), the widow of the Tyrolian chestnut vendor Jacob Dander (1781-1831).

Seal and signature of Wolfgang Amade Nebe on his marriage contract (A-Wsa, Mag. ZG, A10, 370/1839)

Perhaps owing to his famous godfather, Wolfgang Amade Nebe thought highly of himself and occasionally pretended to have a social status that he did not have. His self-esteem sometimes bordered on fraud. In his marriage contract he described himself as "Ehren Bürger" (honorary citizen) of Vienna, a status he did not possess; his illiterate wife probably believed it and she certainly also believed him when, on the occasion of their wedding, he told her that he owned assets worth 2,400 Gulden and that his father had been a "doctor of medicine."

A section of Wolfgang Gottlieb Nebe's 1837 marriage entry in which his father is given as "Doctor der Medicin" (Maria Treu, Tom. 8, fol. 81)
Ledig Wolfgang Gottlieb Nebe, Conskriptions Officier, von Wien / Pfr. Josephstadt geb. 50 J. alt des Andreas Nebe, eines Doctor / der Medicin, und der Francisca Edle v. Wanderer, beyde verst.[orben] e.[helich] e.[erzeugter] S.[ohn]
Witwe Anna Dander, Witwe des Jacob Dander, eines Handlungs- / Dieners, von Eleschtin im Klattauer Kr. Böhm. geb. 53 J. alt, des / Georg Bartl, eines herrschaftl[ichen] Hofdieners, und der Maria / Watruba, beyde verst. e. e. T[ochter]
But there is more. On 6 April 1814, Nebe stood godfather to a daughter of his friend Joseph Illichmann in the parish church of Alservorstadt, and in the baptismal record he put the flamboyant (and pretentious) signature: "Wolfgangus Amade edl[er] V[on] Nebe Mpa".

 Wolfgang Amade Nebe pretending to be a nobleman in 1814 (Alservorstadt 10a, 6 April 1814)

When Wolfgang Amade Nebe died on 11 June 1839 at his home in Breitenfeld No. 15 (today Laudongasse 40) of abdominal dropsy, his supposed assets turned out to be fictitious. His widow Anna Nebe drew her widow's pension for 26 more years. She died at 82, of old age, on 12 November 1865 (Wiener Zeitung, 15 Nov 1865, 486).

How could Mozart's godfatherhood have remained undetected for so long? From my decade-long experience investigating the great composers of the Viennese classical era in the Vienna's church records I draw the following conclusion: musicians (even if they had a permanent position) were not valued among professional colleagues as godparents. People preferred aristocrats, civil servants, artisans and citizens with a secure income. For example, none of the godparents of Johann Georg Albrechtsberger's 15 children was a musician. Of course, prominent musicians appear in the Vienna church books, particularly Antonio Salieri, who as Hofkapellmeister was an enthusiastic godfather and witness, or Joseph Haydn (of whom I have so far been able to identify nine previously unknown godchildren). But it is obvious that Mozart avoided familial responsibilities of this kind, and his absence as a godparent to the children of composers and musicians who were his friends, seems to suggest a definitive reluctance. In this he showed almost the same intentional reticence as Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert.

This discovery was first published in my article "Mozarts Patenkind", in: Acta Mozartiana 58, vol. 1 (June 2011), 57-70.

© Dr. Michael Lorenz 2013.

Updated: 7 April 2023

Feb 6, 2013

"The Newly Discovered Mozart Portrait": Back to Reality

On 11 January 2013 the Mozarteum in Salzburg published a press release that contained the following page:

The gist of this announcement is as follows:
The Mozart Discovery. Hitherto the small portrait on a tobacco box came with a huge question mark. Now it is certain: it shows a portrait if the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart! In the course of a thorough study of all the documents and sources this portrait could definitely be identified as a Mozart portrait from 1783. The miniature shows a striking resemblance to the 1829 engraving by the Dresden engraver Gottschick, wh with this engraving refers to a miniature by Grassi. The portrait on the box could well be a work by Grassi, because Mozart and the painter met each other in Vienna.
Here is the page in the book about the exhibition that deals with the supposed Mozart miniature: 

What we read here, quickly takes us down from the spheres of "sensationally new discoveries" to the low grounds of only too well-known dull speculation. The "certainty" that the press release has been bragging about is gone and the shadow of "we don't really know anything for sure" is lying heavily on the the portrait's supposed authenticity:
Joseph Maria[sic] Grassi (1757-1838)?[sic] [...] The miniature shows a striking resemblance to the 1829 engraving by the Dresden engraver Gottschick who refers to a 1785 miniature by Grassi. The portrait on the box could[sic] well be a 1783 work by Grassi or done from a 1783 model, when Mozart and the painter met each other in Vienna. Possibly[sic] the object is identical with the "box lid that was done not long after his death, probably based on speculation" as the widow [Constanze Mozart] put it in 1800. It is conceivable[sic] that there were several Grassi miniatures of this portrait which looks unfamiliar to us today.
Thus, the whole "sensation" simply boils down to the following points:
  • There is no proof that this miniature was intended to show Mozart.
  • There is no proof that it was done from life.
  • The miniature is being attributed to Joseph Grassi in the book based only on a handwritten[!] note on a copy of Gottschick's 1829 engraving. This note has no provable connection to Gottschick who (for reasons not difficult to imagine) did not put this attribution on his engraving, but only wrote "Nach einem Miniaturgemälde 1785, gestochen von Gottschick 1829".
  • From a purely technical point of view this portrait is starkly at odds with Grassi's work and does not fit into the corpus of his oeuvre. Dr. Großpietsch seems to have delved very lightly into Grassi's life, since he does not even know the painter's correct forenames and erroneously calls him "Joseph Maria" (while his name was Joseph Mathias).
  • The dating of the portrait with the appearance of Grassi's name in a Mozart letter is totally arbitrary. There is no provable connection between Mozart and Grassi, apart from the fact that at a ball in 1783 both of them took part in a pantomime.
  • None of the information presented by the Mozarteum on p. 96 of the book about the exhibition is new. The information simply copies research that has already been published in 2008 by Dr. Richard Bauer in his book "Das rekonstruierte Antlitz" (Neustadt an der Aisch: 2008). Bauer is not being given credit by the Mozarteum in connection with the miniature portrait in question.
The articles in the book published by the Mozarteum are classic examples of the deep lack of logical thinking among scholars, who seem to be dazed by the "Salzburg Mozart Bubble" when it comes to logic and a clear methodology in defining *authenticity* in historical portraiture. I will deal with fundamental issues regarding the authenticity of Mozart portraits in an upcoming review of the exhibition book on this blog. 

In the course of a desperate publicity campaign the Mozarteum took advantage of a journalist's naivete and launched an article in today's New York Times, titled "Wolfgang, Is That You?". In this strangely superficial piece of "popular science" we are being confronted again with the usual mixture of factoids and unsubstantiated conclusions. According to the article in the NYT, "a rummage through the archives found a document showing the object’s provenance". Quote:
The document said Mozart had owned the snuffbox for 10 years and gave it as a gift to Anton Grassi, a sculptor friend in Vienna. Letters from Mozart indicate that Grassi’s brother Joseph, also an artist, painted a miniature of Mozart. Joseph acquired the snuffbox from his brother and attached the miniature, Ms. Ramsauer said.
This mysterious "document" (which could not be located by the Mozarteum experts in the course of the yearslong preparation of their current exhibition) is still unpublished. Since (as stated by Dr. Großpietsch) "Mozart owned several tobacco boxes", its provable[!] connection to the box in question remains doubtful. There is no proof at all that Anton Mathias Grassi (b. 26 June 1755 Vienna, d. 31 December 1807 Vienna) was a "sculptor friend" of Mozart's (as a matter of fact he was a model sculptor at the Imperial Vienna Porcelain Manufactory). To establish a close connection between Anton Grassi and Mozart is an even bigger stretch than the inflation of Joseph Grassi's dancing activities in 1783 into an intimate friendship with the composer. The claim that "Letters[!] from Mozart indicate that Grassi’s brother Joseph, also an artist, painted a miniature of Mozart" is a false and ruthlessly dishonest statement. Grassi does not appear in "letters", but only in one of Mozart's letters to his father on 12 March 1783, where Mozart only reports that "a[sic!] painter (graßi)" appeared as Dottore in a pantomime at a masquerade ball. Any similarity to scholarship is purely coincidental. There is no proof that Grassi ever painted a portrait of Mozart. There is no proof that "Joseph acquired the snuffbox from his brother" or that "he attached the miniature". These claims are all based on reckless speculation. To quote from the NY Times:
One of the most famous portraits — and the one Mozart’s wife, Constanze, considered the most true to life — has long been considered unfinished. It is by Joseph Lange, Mozart’s brother-in-law, and shows him in profile, looking down, his face emerging from a dark background, with a triangle of torso surrounded by scratched white space. The painting, dating from 1789, without doubt looks unfinished, like a classical symphony of two movements.
Fact of the matter is that there is no proof at all that this painting dates from 1789 (contrary to Großpietsch's claim Franz Segl's 1856 photograph proves absolutely nothing). This dating is based on a mere assumption. No research on Lange's oeuvre and the development of his artistic style has ever been undertaken by the Mozarteum. Quote:
X-ray and infrared analysis performed at the Doerner Institute in Munich, an art research institution, last December showed that a small completed painting of Mozart’s head and shoulder had been trimmed and mounted at some point on a larger canvas, with paint added around the edges to smooth out the surface. The enlargement was unfinished, not the original.
This paragraph offers no new information at all. It just repeats my 2009 discovery which I published on 19 September 2012 under the title "Joseph Lange's Mozart Portrait" on this blog. When I told Ms. Ramsauer about my discovery in June 2010, I learnt with astonishment that the thought of submitting the painting to X-ray and infrared analysis had never occurred to the Mozarteum curators. Only after my suggestion did they undertake said analysis, leading to the "sensational" results about which the Mozarteum is now bragging. Of course I do not quarrel with the fact that with this media announcement regarding the Lange portrait the staff of the Mozarteum is now claiming a priority that is not really theirs. There are so many colleagues who witnessed my discovery back in 2009 that today I can actually lean back and watch the ongoing (and partly embarrassing) events with great amusement. I am proud of my pioneering vision that needed no X-ray analysis to discover the truth about Lange's Mozart portrait already four years ago.

Joseph Grassi's signature (which appears on none of his supposed "Mozart portraits")

© Dr. Michael Lorenz 2013

Postscript (January 2014)

The document that according to the 2013 article in the New York Times, "said Mozart had owned the snuffbox for ten years and gave it as a gift to Anton Grassi, a sculptor friend in Vienna" has still not been published by the Mozarteum. 

Postscript (January 2015)

The document that according to the 2013 article in the New York Times, "said Mozart had owned the snuffbox for ten years and gave it as a gift to Anton Grassi, a sculptor friend in Vienna" has still not been published by the Mozarteum.

Feb 1, 2013

Lorenzo Da Ponte's Viennese Residence in 1788

In the book about the 2006 exhibition Lorenzo Da Ponte Aufbruch in die Neue Welt at Vienna's Jewish Museum, Werner Hanak writes:
In 1787, Da Ponte is at the peak of his librettist career. And yet he is going to rise and take an even more important role in the world of theater. But before we reach that point in the exhibition, let us interject a question: Where did Da Ponte actually live in Vienna? Contrary to Mozart, whose letters tell us about his numerous addresses during his Viennese years, and different from Da Ponte in New York, where he is documented as established businessman or teacher in many address books, none of the librettist's addresses in Vienna could so far be identified.

Two of Da Ponte's addresses in Vienna can very roughly be located based on the information given in two passages of his memoirs to which Hanak duly refers in his article. After his arrival in Vienna, Da Ponte seems to have lived in the inner city which turned out to be too expensive for him:
Instead of keeping my apartment in the city, which cost me very dearly, I took a small chamber in the house of a tailor in the suburb of Wieden.
A clip from the 1829 edition of Da Ponte's Memorie describing his move to the sobborgo di Vidden.

In a later passage in his memoirs, Da Ponte describes how he dreamed that he ran into Casanova on the Graben, one of the streets of Vienna where he lived at that time ("una cioè delle strade di Vienna, dove io allora abitava"). And at some time before February 1785 (at which time Casanova left Vienna), Da Ponte's dream came true:
Salieri, who used to visit me every day, arrived at the usual hour to take me for a walk in a public garden. When I arrived at the Graben, I noticed an old man in some distance who was watching me attentively and didn't seem unfamiliar to me. Suddenly I saw him leaving his spot, he approached me, embraced me with great vivacity and exclaimed: "Da Ponte, dear Da Ponte, what joy to find you here!" And those were the very same words that he had said to me in my dream.
 Da Ponte describing his dream and his 1784/85 encounter with Casanova on Vienna's Graben

In September 2011, in the course of a complete reading of the 1787/88 Josephinische Steuerfassion, I located Da Ponte's name in these tax records (an inventory of all Viennese houses subjected to taxation, their main tenants and their leasing rates). It turns out that in 1788 Lorenzo Da Ponte lived in the "Heiligengeist Haus" ("Holy Ghost House") No. 316, at the upper end of the Tiefer Graben, opposite the the so-called Heidenschuß, between the squares Am Hof and Freyung. There, for an annual rent of 200 Gulden, Da Ponte lived in an apartment on the fourth floor that consisted of three rooms, a kitchen, and a firewood vault.

The second page of the list of tenants in the house Stadt 316 in the Steuerfassion with Da Ponte listed as no. 15 (A-Wsa, Steueramt B34/1, fol. 470)

3ter Stock
        Rechter Hand 3 Zimmer, 1 Küche, 1 Holz
                   gewölb L'Abbe da Ponte                     200 [fl]

L'Abbe da Ponte listed in the 1788 tax register (A-Wsa, Steueramt B34/1, fol. 470)

Unfortunately, the bishopric's general ledger preserved in Vienna's Diözesanarchiv does not list the individual tenants and only gives a general summary of the house's annual rental yield (amounting to 3431 gulden in 1788/89). The name "Holy Ghost House" originated from a hospital foundation of the Order of the Holy Ghost which was established in Vienna on 27 May 1211, by Duke Leopold VI and his personal physician. The Holy Ghost Hospital proper, which was located on the Wieden, ran into hard times and was eventually destroyed by the Turks in 1529, during the Siege of Vienna. The last head of the Viennese branch of the Holy Ghost foundation, Dr. Jacob Nagl, went to great efforts to at least preserve the two houses in the city at the corner of Tiefer Graben and Heidenschuß for the foundation. For financial reasons the foundation eventually had to be disbanded, and in 1579, the two houses were taken over by the bishop Johann Caspar Neubeck for the bishopric of Vienna. The two old small houses were torn down in 1639, and, for reasons of maximization of rental yield, replaced with one six-storied house whose broadsides faced the Heidenschuß and the Tiefer Graben. The entrance of the house was located on the southwest side and was decorated with a huge stone coat of arms of the house's builder Philipp Friedrich Count Breuner, similar to the one that today is on display near the main altar of St. Stephen's Cathedral.

The area between Hof and Freyung on Huber's 1778 Vogelschauplan with the tall "Holy Ghost House" in the center (W-Waw, Sammlung Woldan)

The "Holy Ghost House" seen from the Tiefer Graben. The entrance was located on the other side towards the Heidenschuß. In the foreground is a so-called Fleischbank, a cold storage house for meat (anonymous watercolor).

An especially nice view of the house appears on Bernardo Bellotto's painting Die Freyung in Wien.

Bernardo Bellotto, gen. Canaletto: view of the Freyung from the northwest 1759–1760 (A-Wkhm, Gemäldegalerie, 1652)

 The "Heiligengeisthaus" No. 316 on Bellotto's painting

Around the middle of the nineteenth century, Franz Gerasch (1826–1906) painted a historistic view of the Freyung that also shows the "Heiligengeisthaus". It may have been inspired by Bellotto's painting.

Rudolf von Alt: Die Freyung gegen den Heidenschuß 1849 (Wien Museum, I.N. 17666)

The most intriguing implication of Da Ponte's address is the fact that by living in the "Holy Ghost House", L'Abbe Da Ponte was a tenant of Vienna's archbishop Christoph Anton Cardinal Migazzi (1714–1803). Da Ponte is not the only person of musical interest connected with this house: at the time of his marriage in 1775, Antonio Salieri had been living there for several years and it seems possible that he later recommended this particular residence to his friend Da Ponte.

Da Ponte's landlord: Christoph Cardinal Migazzi Count zu Wall und Sonnenthurm (1714–1803)

Cardinal Migazzi listed as the owner of the house Stadt 316 in the 1787/88 Steuerfassion (A-Wsa, Steueramt B 34/1, fol. 469)

Who else lived at Stadt 316 in 1788? The first floor (in Vienna "Zu ebener Erde") housed a janitor's room, four butcheries, a wine tavern run by the bishopric, and six Auslaggewölbe (shops). Among them, Anton Angermayer's cheese dairy, Johann Michael Geiblinger's Greißlerei (a general store), and the butcheries of Nikolaus Paulus and Joseph Tscherny. The largest and most expensive apartment in the house (nine rooms on the third floor below Da Ponte) was let to the Tridentine capitular Count Wilhelm Triangi von und zu Latsch und Madernburg. The tenant who shared the fourth floor with Da Ponte was possibly Anton Brandt (1752–1822), the official of the Hungarian Court Chancellery, whose name appears in Matthias Raby von Raba und Mura's 1797 book Justizmord und Regierungsgreuel. The fifth floor was leased to the wigmaker Paul Prem (the future father-in-law of the the clarinetist Joseph Bähr) and the Tyrolian Schwertfeger (swordsmith) Alois Walcher. On the highest floors lived Leopold Peidinger, the widow Ursula Kernhofer, and the tailor Joachim Ruckhart, who had moved into the "Heiligengeist Haus" in 1769, after his marriage to Elisabeth Drescher, daughter of a tailor who had also lived there. Of course, the house was also inhabited by countless subtenants whose names do not appear in the tax records.

It is not possible to determine when Da Ponte moved into the "Heiligengeist Haus" and whether he already moved out before leaving Vienna for Trieste in June 1791. Regarding Da Ponte's collaboration with Mozart, it is important to note that the residence on the Heidenschuß was situated relatively close to Mozart's apartment on the Alsergrund where the composer lived at the very same time. This proximity may have been relevant in course of the preparation of the Vienna premiere of Don Giovanni on 7 May 1788. Mozart's next residence in the house "Zum Nikolaus" at Judenplatz 245 was also located relatively close to the Heidenschuß where Da Ponte may still have lived in 1789, when he and Mozart began working on Così fan tutte.

In 1855, the bishopric sold the "Heiligengeist Haus" (by then No. 236) to the newly founded k.k. privilegierte Österreichische Creditanstalt which tore it down to make way for its new headquarters (to be destroyed during WWII). Most of the floor area of the historic building is located today on the street in front of Heidenschuß 2.

The "Heiligengeist Haus" (No. 236) in relation to today's buildings outlined in red (Paul Harrer-Lucienfeld, Wien, seine Häuser, Geschichte und Kultur. Band 2, 1. Teil, Vienna 1952)

The Freyung from the northwest in 2013. The Schottenkirche is on the left.

This discovery was first published on 26 September 2011 in an amended footnote of my article "Mozart's Apartment on the Alsergrund", and again on 2 July 2012, in Wikipedia's Da Ponte article.

© Dr. Michael Lorenz 2013. All rights reserved

Updated: 30 March 2023