Maria Wodzińska (1819–1896)
Pencil self-portrait aged seventeen, 165 x 126, reproduction: Leopold Binental, Chopin w 120–tą rocznicę urodzin. Dokumenty i pamiątki (Warsaw 1930).
The original was lost with the collection of the directors of the State Art Collection in Warsaw in 1939
Maria Wodzińska belonged to a magnatial family from Cuiavia. At one time Chopin’s fiancée, she later married Count Józef Skarbek, and then Władysław Orpiszewski.
Fryderyk and Maria knew each other from childhood, when her brothers (Antoni, Feliks and Kazimierz) spent a year at the boarding school run by Mikołaj Chopin. That time was recalled by Maria’s sister, Józefa Kościelska: ‘My brothers were boarders with Mikołaj Chopin only for a year […]. Afterwards they lived with us at our mother’s, which did not prevent the continuation of the friendship struck up with Chopin, a friendship that was sincere and extremely close. […] Whenever we were at the Chopins’ with our mother and brothers, we thought first and foremost about having fun. The fact that little Frycek was already regarded as the foremost pianist in Warsaw gave him less charm in our eyes than the fact that none of the other boys was so inclined to amusement and jokes as he […]. It also occurred that he sat at the piano, but as we were too childish to feel beautiful music, he either fooled around at the piano or else played waltzes, polkas, galopades and mazurkas for us to dance to. He was generally superior to all his peers, not only in mirth, but also in charm. And so both my mother and we liked him very much’ [Chopin w kraju, p. 231]. When he moved to Paris, Chopin began corresponding with Maria. His first meeting with the grown-up Maria took place in September 1835, in Dresden, where Chopin, during a two-week stay, visited the Wodzińskis many times. At this time, he also wrote into her album the opening bars of the Nocturne in E flat major, Op. 9 No. 2 and the words ‘soyez heureuse’ [‘may you be happy’]. As a parting gift, he offered her an autograph of the Waltz in A flat major (Op. 69 No. 1). The following year, they met in Marienbad, where they spent together almost a month, walking and playing music, and Maria painted his portrait. Together with Maria’s mother, they returned to Dresden, where, on 9 September 1836, ‘at twilight’, Fryderyk proposed and was accepted ‘for a trial period’. The previous day, Fryderyk had written into Maria’s album the song ‘Pierścień’ [‘The Ring’], set to words by Stefan Witwicki; how sad and prophetic turned out to be the words of that song: ‘Innego zostałaś żoną, ja zawsze kochałem…’ [‘You became another’s wife, but I always loved you…’]. Fryderyk’s correspondence with Maria in Służewo and her mother in Paris lasted almost to the end of 1837, but the betrothed couple would never meet again. The wedding did not come about, probably due to the opposition of Maria’s father. Fryderyk bound in a pink ribbon an envelope containing letters from Maria and her family from the years 1835–1837 and wrote upon it the words ‘Moja bieda’ [My trouble]. The Wodzińskis’ letters to Chopin were destroyed in Warsaw in 1939, together with the collection of Laura Ciechomska.