Delfina Potocka (1805–1877)
Ary Scheffer, oil painting, [c.1836], reproduction: Leopold Wellisch, Zygmunt Krasiński i Ary Scheffer [Zygmunt Krasiński and Ary Scheffer] (Warsaw, 1909), p. 29.
Collection: Photographic collection of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, Warsaw [F.9256].
Delfina Potocka, née Komar, a pupil and friend of Chopin’s. He met her in Dresden in 1830, at the home of her parents, who moved to Paris following the defeat of the November Rising. Chopin became teacher to her younger sisters, Ludmiła and Natalia, and then to Delfina, who was famed in the salons of the Polish and Parisian aristocracy for her beauty and vocal talent. Through Potocka, with whom he enjoyed increasingly friendly and close relations, Chopin had the opportunity to make acquaintances among the Parisian aristocracy, where he was readily entrusted with the pianistic education of ladies. ‘Yesterday I had dinner at the home of Mrs Potocka, that pretty wife of Mieczysław. I’m slowly launching myself into the world, but I have only a ducat in my pocket!’, wrote Chopin to Norbert Kumelski from Paris, 18 November 1831 [Sydow, i, 187].
Emilia Hoffman, née Borzęcka, a pupil of Chopin’s in the years 1846–1847, recalls an evening at Chopin’s home: ‘Mrs Sand was there, who the whole time had at her lips… a cigar. Franchomme, Chopin’s cellist friend, was there, and also Delfina Potocka. I still remember that Chopin—as always full of refined gallantry for the fairer sex—had prepared bouquets of violets for all the ladies, but he had not prepared enough, so when Mrs Delfina arrived late there were no violets for her; Chopin picked a flower from the magnificent camellia that stood in the salon and offered it to the beautiful countess. […] But on no one, so much as I saw him in society, did he look with such a delighted gaze as he looked upon Mrs Delfina… Quite simply, he gave the impression that he would have blown the dust from under her feet’ [Czartkowski and Jeżewska, pp. 422–423]. Delfina was a frequent guest in Chopin’s salon, as Eugène Delacroix recalls in his journal: ‘Saw that enchantress Mme Potocka this evening, at Chopin’s house. I had heard her sing twice before, and thought that I had never met with anything more perfect especially the first time, when it was dusk and the black velvet dress she was wearing, the arrangement of her hair, in fact everything about her […] made me think she must be as ravishingly beautiful as her movements were certainly graceful’ [30 March 1849] [Delacroix 1995, 97]. The friendship between Delfina and Fryderyk lasted until his death. The composer dedicated to her his F minor Concerto, Op. 21 and D flat major Waltz, Op. 64 No. 1, and wrote into her album the Prelude in A flat major and his last song: ‘Z gór, gdzie dĽwigali’ [‘Bowed ‘neath their crosses’], to words by Zygmunt Krasiński. The last music heard by Chopin, two days before his death, was an aria sung by Countess Potocka at the dying man’s request; it was the largo ‘Dignare Domine’ in the key of B minor from Handel’s ‘Dettingen’ Te Deum.