[Bach, Johann Sebastian. (1685-1750)]
Carved Bust Portrait
A rare and finely carved bust portrait of the great composer, ca. 1850s, likely based on an early nineteenth-century engraving. Carved walnut with good color and patination. Light mounting remnants on the verso. 4.75 x 6.5 inches (12.2 x 16.5 cm). Secular portrait carvings from this era are uncommon.
The only verifiably authentic portrait of Bach was painted in 1748 by Elias Gottlob Haussmann and shows the composer in a white shirt and blue coat with buttons, holding a piece of music in his right hand. This highly recognizable image became the model for many other portraits of Bach. The present carved portrait seems to our eye to be most closely modeled on the 1840 lithograph by F. G. Schlick, which is based on the Haussmann portrait but reverses the position of Bach's body and arms. Although the wooden bust does not include Bach's hand and the piece of music he holds, the two separate lines of buttons on his open coat and waistcoat are noticeable in both images. The lithograph was first published by Hartung, then by Schick, in Leipzig; Robert Schumann wrote of it as "a quite large and imposing sheet and far better than all the earlier portraits of Bach."