Friday, July 16, 2010

Schubert's Glasses


Franz Schubert was almost always painted and sketched wearing glasses. In several contemporary images his glasses are drawn in parody. They continue to be an iconic part of his image. The frames are steel with spherical lenses. The nose bridge is made from symmetrically opposed curves, like two slurs, joined in the center.

The lenses have a strong horizontal crack. It is hard to imagine how something could crack both lenses this dramatically without breaking the frame also. Did it happen after Schubert's death? Perhaps during the time they were stored by Josef Hüttenbrenner?

The glasses are on display at the Schubert Geburtshaus in Vienna, on 54 Nussdorferstrasse; a walkable distance from city center, or a short ride on the 38 Tram.

They are stored in a central display case that one can walk around. I was moved by them and spent considerable time observing every angle, lost in meditation.

The guidebook from the Historical Museum of the City of Vienna measured "a spherical lens of -3.75 diopters. (The outside of the lenses measures -1.25, the inside -2.5; measured with a spherometer."

In "Schubert; Twelve Moments musicaux and a novel," a book that is poetic and witty even in translation, Peter Härtling imagines a conversation between Johann Mayrhofer and Schubert, who were roommates at the time. Looking down at Schubert, Mayrhofer:
...was completely amazed: "Do you sleep with your glasses on?"

"What?" Schubert feels over his face with his hand. "Yes, I sleep with my glasses."

"Don't you notice them?"

"Yes, I do. I can see better when I'm dreaming."

1 comment:

  1. Jeffrey Johnson - A pleasure to begin my morning by letting you know that it is a delight to have found your blog. I was moved by them and spent considerable time observing every angle, lost in meditation.This recollection: 'I was moved by them and spent considerable time observing every angle, lost in meditation.' from your visit brought back to my mind the profound experience I had when examining Schubert's Death Mask at Curtis Institute.
    I truly beieve, and at this point know with certainty, that Schubert is one of the world's most compassionate 'bestowers of grace' on the lot of humanity.

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