The long-lost principal source for the Dresden artist's Rome visit

Grassi, Joseph, painter; Mozart's portraitist (1757-1838). Notebook with 55 autograph pages of travel notes.

Rome, 1808-1810 and 1816-1821.

Small 8vo. 51 unnumbered ff. Original red morocco. Green moirée silk endpapers; all edges gilt. Signed by Grassi on front flyleaf.


The personal travel notebook of Joseph Grassi, one of the foremost portraitists of his age and remembered today as the painter of one of the very few authentic Mozart portraits. In her biographical sketch of the artist, Elisabeth Eixner deplores the lack of studies concerning Grassi's Roman years: "It would be a rewarding task for scholarship to investigate Grassi's activities in Rome, which he first visited in 1808-10 (becoming member of the Academy of San Luca in 1810), and again in 1816-21 as 'Director of Studies of Saxon Artists in Italy'" (NDB VII, 5). Clearly, the present notebook constitutes the principal and hitherto entirely undocumented source for such an investigation: apparently begun during his first journey to Italy, the booklet also served Grassi upon his return, containing his travel plans as well as lists of important events, meetings, addresses, and contacts in Rome. The detailed schedule of his itinerary from Gotha to Rome (no less than 60 stations, stating the distances and length of stay) is followed by a five-page catalogue of artists active in Rome, most of which Grassi managed to visit, a brief account of social life in the city, and a list of various works of art and their locations. The names of numerous art dealers and antiquarians as well as several paintings offered to Grassi (including works by van Dyck, Raffael, Michelangelo, and Rubens) give evidence of his activity as an agent for the Ducal collections. Among the extensive notes at the end of the volume (which include payments to his coachman) we also find a three-page autobiography in which Grassi records the principal events of his life with their respective dates.

After his last visit to Rome "Grassi returned to Dresden, where he died in 1838, lonely and after years of illness. For a decade (1781-1791), Mozart and Grassi both lived in Vienna. The close connection between Joseph Grassi, the Mozarts and their in-laws Lange is proved by a letter of 12 March 1783 from Wolfgang to Leopold Mozart in which he discusses a performance of his pantomime 'Pantalon und Colombine' (with his music, KV 446) on March 3rd, an event held in the Hofburg Redoutensaal and attended by his friends" (cf. Angermüller).

Perfectly preserved. Autographs in Grassi's hand are of the utmost rarity: the past decades' auction records list a single specimen (Stargardt, 21 March 1996, lot 672: his signature on a receipt for Duke August of Saxe-Gotha).

R. Angermüller, Mozart: Bilder und Klänge. Salzburg, Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum, 1991, p. 358. NDB VII, 4-5.

Stock Code: BN#30988 Tag: