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Paris

Paris, Fryderyk Chopin’s salon at 12 Place Vendôme

Paris, Fryderyk Chopin’s salon in his last apartment, at 12 Place Vendôme, Teofil Kwiatkowski, watercolour. Original lost with the collection of Leopold Binental in Warsaw. Collection: Photographic collection of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, Warsaw, after Leopold Binental,  Chopin w 120-tą rocznicę urodzin. Dokumenty i pamiątki, (Warsaw 1930).

 

In June 1849, on account of the dramatic state of his health, Fryderyk Chopin was advised to move to the outskirts of Paris. He lived for a few weeks in a villa at 74 Grande rue de Chaillot. ‘“I am stronger, as I have caught up on eating and thrown up my medicine – but I am panting and coughing the same, just that I am bearing it better – I have not yet started to play – I cannot compose – I do not know what kind of hay I shall soon be eating”. Among his visitors are Jenny Lind (“she sang one evening in my home”), Delfina Potocka, Ludmiła Beauvau, Mrs Rothschild, the Duke and Duchess Czartoryski, Jane Stirling and Catherine Erskine, and earlier Duchess Natalia Obreskov, Ernst Legouvé and Baron Nathaniel Stockhausen.’ Besides them, he was visited mainly by doctors. When his illness intensifies and he suffers numerous haemorrhages, a resigned Chopin writes to his sister, urging her to come: ‘If you can, then come. I am weak and no doctor can help me like you. […] Beautiful weather today, I am sitting in the drawing-room and admiring my view over the whole of Paris: the tower, the Tuileries, the Chamber, Saint Germ[ain] L’Aux[errois], Saint Etienne du Mont, Notre Dame, Panthéon, Saint Sulpice, Val-de-Grâce, Invalides, from five windows and nothing but gardens between them. You will see when you come.’ In August, after the summer spent in Chaillot, Fryderyk returned to his apartment on Square d’Orléans. For September and October, in the last year of his life, Chopin moved to his last Paris apartment. The doctors considered that in his condition he ought to reside in a very sunny and well-heated flat. ‘His new lodgings were a spacious seven-room apartment on the first floor of the building at 12 Place Vendôme […] Although Chopin was almost certainly aware of his imminent death, enthusiastic as ever, he took on the role of interior decorator, ordering new furniture, carpets and curtains. It must have given him the illusion that—naturally—he would return to good health.

 

Over the course of less than two months, a host of Fryderyk’s friends passed through his last Paris apartment, as well as ‘pupils and acquaintances returning from their summer holidays. There was Duchess Marcelina Czartoryska, Jane Wilhelmina Stirling, Katherine Erskine, Maria Kalergis, Duchess Catherine Soutzo, Duchess Natalia Obreskov, Charlotte de Rothschild, Marie de Rozières, Auguste Franchomme, Adolphe Gutmann, Wojciech Grzymała, Teofil Kwiatkowski and Bohdan Zaleski. Gutmann plays Mozart to Chopin, Potocka sings, Kwiatkowski sketches. Besides this, as Pauline Viardot spitefully remarked, “all the grande dames of Paris considered it their duty to faint in his room”. In October, Chopin instructed “all his unpublished and unfinished works to be thrown on the fire”. According to Wojciech Grzymała’s account, he said: “There are many works to a greater or lesser degree unworthy of me; in the name of the affection that you feel for me, please burn them all except the beginning of the method [of piano playing]. […] The remainder without exception are to be consumed by flames, since I have too great a respect for the public and do not wish for works unworthy of the public to become disseminated on my responsibility and in my name.” On 17 October 1849, at two after midnight, Fryderyk Chopin died’ [Tomaszewski, Chopin…].