- The Mozart Cache: The Discovery and Examination of a Previously Unknown Collection of Mozartiana
For whom is this book primarily intended? For the scholar looking for serious discussion and possible authentication of recently discovered items related to the Mozart family and to Leopold Mozart's friend and one-time landlord Johann Lorenz Hagenauer? For the general music enthusiast, who is ultimately unconcerned with high-level scholarly investigation, and is happy to entertain large doses of speculation? Or for the idle, coffee-table 'reader', who will be content to peruse the colour reproductions of portraits and objets d'art and not worry unduly about the written text? At no point does Daniel Leeson clarify the intended market for his self-published book. With much of the usual scholarly apparatus in view, however, including detailed footnotes and grand statements about provenance and authenticity, we must judge the book according to scholarly criteria; and, on every count in this respect, Leeson falls short of acceptable standards.
The apparent discovery of items connected to the Mozarts and to Hagenauer—what Leeson calls the 'Mozart Cache'—is a cause for general celebration; naturally we would have a right to expect sober, rational, and fastidious scholarly analysis of all items, with a view to authenticating (or otherwise) their relationship to the Mozarts. Unfortunately Leeson, first up to the plate in the Mozart community, seems unwilling, or unable, to carry out this kind of work with the requisite discipline and application. At first glance his book cuts a messy, ungainly figure—thirty-five chapters in just 196 pages of text, some only two pages long, and variable reproduction quality for the portraits and objects. Some reproductions are good, but others are not: the fuzzy horse's hoof looks like a tortoise shell (p. 18); the segment of the portrait of Hagenauer aged 42 does not help to show a cabinet of spice drawers, as Leeson intends (p. 32); Hagenauer looks like he is wearing a handkerchief on his head in one picture (whether it is incomplete, damaged, or reflecting a light source we are not told; p. 33); a portrait of Frederick II and a small religious statue are out of focus (pp. 87, 89), as are pictures of snuff boxes (pp. 98-9, 102). (Ironically, the facsimile reproduction of Mozart's letter to Baroness von Waldstätten is clear in Supplement 2 (pp. 199-203), but is of no direct relevance to those looking for insight into the 'Mozart Cache', given the wide availability of the contents of Mozart's letter in German and English editions.)
Probing beneath the surface, Leeson's lack of scholarly incisiveness becomes significantly more problematic. A case in point is his purported discovery that the 'Portrait of a Young Girl at Chocolate' (ch. 2, pp. 21-7) is Mozart's sister, Nannerl. Leeson explains that the picture is part of the Locatelli-Hagenauer archive, that Leopold Mozart met the likely artist, London-based John Zoffany, and that Nannerl's age in the portrait matches her age when in London with her family (1764-5); and he thereby declares that the girl in the portrait is Nannerl. But we need much more information. How do we know that the girl is c.10-12 years of age? (Leeson tells us nothing about the culture of portraiture in eighteenth-century London.) How do we know that it was not just a portrait of another woman that Leopold was given by Zoffany at their meeting, or that he acquired elsewhere, perhaps remembering his meeting with Zoffany? How are Zoffany's other portraits stylistically similar to this one? How can we be sure, in short, that the portrait is actually by Zoffany? We require analysis of these issues, and more, before beginning seriously to consider Leeson's hypothesis. His discussion lacks scholarly edge too. He repeatedly relies—here and elsewhere—on private correspondence with those declared as authorities, presumably asking us to believe that painstaking scholarly work...