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A Portrait of Mendelssohn$
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Clive Brown

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780300095395

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300095395.001.0001

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• Appearance and Manner

• Appearance and Manner

Chapter:
(p.3) 1 • Appearance and Manner
Source:
A Portrait of Mendelssohn
Author(s):

Clive Brown

Publisher:
Yale University Press
DOI:10.12987/yale/9780300095395.003.0001

As a child, Felix Mendelssohn seems to have attracted attention not only for his musical gifts but also for his manner and physical appearance. According to Mendelssohn's composition teacher Carl Friedrich Zelter, his pupil was “good and pretty, lively and obedient.” In the opinion of most of his contemporaries, Mendelssohn's portraits failed to convey the mercurial traits that often made his features fascinating and arresting. One of his closest English musical friends, William Sterndale Bennett, described Mendelssohn as having the appearance of an angel. William Makepeace Thackeray commented that “his face is the most beautiful face I ever saw...” whereas Richard Wagner claimed that he looked so fat and unpleasant. As he grew older, Mendelssohn apparently did not lose any of his physical attractiveness. Many noted the contrast between his slight build and his athleticism. Others, like George Grove and Bayard Taylor, admired his eyes. In the last few years of his life, however, Mendelssohn's features and bearing showed signs of strain.

Keywords:   manner, physical appearance, Carl Friedrich Zelter, portraits, William Sterndale Bennett, William Makepeace Thackeray, Richard Wagner, athleticism, eyes

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