Faked image of Nicolò Paganini, 1782 - 1840, the great violinist
   The image below is included here not to perpetuate the myth of its authenticity, but rather to help put the Paganini carving by Gégoux into the perspective of the times in which it was created.  I include here an article which has been preserved in the Gégoux family records since the day of its printing in 1901.  I do not know how Gégoux felt about the article or the faked image seen here.  But the Gégoux carving bears as much resemblance to this faked image as it does to any of the other various likenesses of Paganini.  The article is retyped here as it first appeared in 1901.  ©- All Rights Reserved.

THE MUSICAL COURIER
Pallas St. 13, Berlin, W., January 22, 1901

A Newly Discovered Daguerreotype of Nicolo Paganini.
by Arthur M. Abell.

STRANGE discovery!   At last, sixty years after his death, we have an exact likeness of the greatest violinist the world has ever seen - Nicolo Paganini.  By special permission of Breitkopf & Haertel, of Leipsic, who own all rights of this picture, I am enabled to present it to the readers of THE MUSICAL COURIER.  © - {Copyrighted by G. Fiorini, Munich.}
Paganini    It is a photograph of an old daguerrotype of Paganini lately discovered in Turin, Italy, hence the likeness is exact.  In fact, this is the only authentic likeness of Paganini in existence.  It differs materially from all paintings and sketches of the great violinist.

   What a striking picture it is!  There he stands ready to begin, his hand sprawled out, stopping the four E's, his bow high above his head ready to be dashed down on the strings, just as he has so often been described by eyewitnesses.

   This probably represents him in the act of beating time, as he was in the habit of doing while the orchestra was playing the introduction; for if he were in the act of beginning to play, he certainly would not hold the thumb on the bow, as here.

   He evidently did not pay much attention to dress; his clothes fit him like those of a chimney sweep in a provincial German town.

   What a striking face!  One may well say, as did Sir Charles Hallé, who saw him in Paris, a striking, awe inspiring, ghost like figure.
   I have read many accounts of Paganini's playing and appearance, but none ever interested me half so much as the vivid description of an eye-witness, Frau Geheimrath Junge, an old lady still living in Weimar, who heard the great magician there in the early thirties.

   She was about seventeen years old at the time, and as she was educated musically she appreciated his playing and carried away a very, very vivid impression of it.  Instead of quoting from books I will try to give this lady's impressions as she told them to me.

   There was great excitement in Weimar when it was made known that Paganini was coming.  The little residence only had 8,000 inhabitants at that time.  It had a fine orchestra, however, a good opera, and it was famous as an art centre.

   In spite of the extravagant admission prices the theatre was sold out long before the day of the concert.  A brilliant audience was assembled, including the entire court.  After the overture there was a feverish expectancy.  Enter Paganini!  Breathless silence.  What an extraordinary figure!  How those piercing black eyes took in everything and everybody in the theatre (he was probably mentally counting the receipts, for he had a keen eye to filthy lucre).

   His first number was the finale to his B minor Concerto, "La Clochette."  What a ravishing tone; what prodigious execution; what passion!

   The little theatre thundered with applause. Weimar gave the great Italian a royal welcome.  He appeared again and again to bow his acknowledgments with a ghastly, satanic smile or grin rather, that was at once awe-inspiring and ludicrous.  Finally he played an encore, a piece for violin alone, abounding in hair raising technical feats, double harmonics, left hand pizzicato (probably his "Nel cor piu non mi sento"), thrown staccato and such diabolical things, all very new and astounding to the good people of Weimar.  The expression on the faces of the violinists in the orchestra most laughable, such a combination of admiration, awe, wonder, and incredulity.  They could not believe it, yet they heard it.

   Frau Junge could not remember what Paganini's other program numbers were, but as an encore after the last piece he played his "Carneval of Venice."  And how he did play it!  The devil himself seemed to be let loose, in a frolicky mood.  How the notes laughed and jumped!  Here the individuality of the artist was felt more than in any other piece.  He expressed the whole gamut of human passions.  His violin wept, laughed, danced and moaned, and he compelled the audience to do all this with him.  The public was frantic.  Such enthusiasm had never been seen in a concert in Weimar.

   Frau Junge heard nearly all of the great artists of the century.  She knew Liszt personally during forty years; she heard him play the "Kreutzer Sonata," together with Ernst; she heard Spohr, Vieuxtemps, Thalberg, Ole Bull, Sivori, Rubinstein as a young man.  She lived in the same house with Tausig and heard him practice eight hours a day.  In short, she heard the best the last century had to give; but she says no other performer ever impressed her as did Paganini.  There was something so diabolically fascinating about him!

   This picture must have been taken shortly before Paganini's death, as he died May 27, 1840, and Daguerre did not discover his process of taking pictures till 1838, and it was not put to practical use till 1839.  It is a most curious fact that the portrait of such a famous man should have remained undiscovered for sixty years.

Arthur M. Abell.  © All Rights Reserved.

{Further note}

   In his 1979 biography of Paganini, Leslie Sheppard quoted Miss Geraldine de Courcy, "..One of Paganini's most competent biographers.."  I include her evaluation of the photograph here:

   This picture is so obviously spurious that along with my research, I set forth to "track it down" with the following results:
   At the end of the nineties of the last century the violin maker Giuseppe Fiorini (who had removed from Bologna to Munich in the late seventies) was spending some time in Italy and in "collaboration" with a photographer in Venice, concocted the picture, took it back with him to Germany where he had it copyrighted in 1900 and sold it (evidently for a round sum!) to a collector of Paganiniana.  The picture eventually came into the Theatre Collection of Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson in London.  When the publishing firm of Rockliff was preparing to bring out the English edition of the Farga book, they applied to this collection for a picture of Paganini and were given the one mentioned.  To have accepted it unquestionably demonstrates the lack of judgement of the average person in taking too much for granted.  Instead of Paganini's "long slender hands" the picture gives us those of - to use a common expression - "a butcher's hands."  The costume is obviously that of the late seventies, and the manner of displaying the medals equally so.  In fact, Paganini only possessed three and among them there were none of the Cross of Saints Maurizie and Lazarre, which stands forth so prominentlt in the picture!  As far as I have been able to ascertain the picture was only published once in Italy, early in 1915, that is, shortly after Fiorini's return for a visit after moving his business from Munich to Luzerne.
  The Italians have always sharply repudiated this picture and have refused to display it, even as a curiosity.
© - All Rights Reserved.