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Bach portrait unveiled in Leipzig

June 12, 2015

After spending 265 years outside the city, the sole authentic portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach returns to the place where Bach once lived and the center of Bach scholarship.

Bach-Portrait des Leipziger Malers Elias Gottlob Haußmann AUSSCHNITT
Image: Bach-Archiv Leipzig

The historically most important from-life portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach was unveiled at the opening performance of the Bachfest Leipzig in St. Nicholas's Church on Friday (12.06.2015). The valuable image was painted in 1748 by Leipzig painter Elias Gottlob Hausmann.

The object's most recent owner, the American philanthropist and music scholar Dr. William H. Scheide, had bequeathed the likeness of the famous composer to the Leipzig Bach Archive. It was handed over to Leipzig Mayor Burkhard Jung and to the Leipzig Bach Archive's President and Director, Sir John Eliot Gardiner and Peter Wollny, at a private ceremony at Scheide's home earlier this year.

In an unusual twist of fate, Gardiner himself had grown up under the stern yet benevolent gaze of the portrait. Its onetime owner, Walter Jenke, a German-Jewish refugee, had entrusted the original to the care of Gardiner's father in Dorset, England for the duration of World War II. "It is both poignant and fitting to see the portrait return to Leipzig," said Gardiner.

"From Leipzig via Silesia and Dorset to Princeton - and now back again. That this portrait is returning to Leipzig is a great gift," added Leipzig Mayor Burkhard Jung.

On June 13, the painting will be moved to the Bach Museum in Leipzig, where it will remain on permanent display.

ff / bach archive leipzig