Double portrait of the composer Gaspare Spontini and his wife Celeste. Dated 1813.

  • This item was purchased by Pommersches Landesmuseum, Greifswald.

Wilhelm Titel (1784-1862).

Double portrait of the composer Gaspare Spontini (1774-1851) and his wife Celeste (1790-1878). The landscape through the window is of Maiolati, Spontini’s birthplace near Ancona in Italy (now called Maiolati-Spontini).

Signed, ‘G. Titel Sueco Pomerania Pinxit 1813’. (The ‘G’ is for the Italian version of Wilhelm; ‘Sueco Pomerania’ is Swedish Pomerania, Titel’s birthplace).

Oil on canvas, 63" x  85" (1,60m x 2,16m).

Spontini was the central figure in French serious opera in the first two decades of the 19th Century. He came to Paris from his native Italy in 1803, and from 1805 received the patronage of the Empress Josephine, holding the office of director of her private music. In 1810 he married Celeste Erard, who was from the famous family of musical instrument makers. He left Paris for Berlin in 1820, to become Music Director to King Friedrich Wilhelm III. In both Paris and Berlin he was attended by controversy, due much, apparently, to his difficult personality, variously described as autocratic, overbearing and truculent. Critical opinion has rarely been kind to him, though his influence was considerable and he was greatly admired by young composers of the time, notably Berlioz and Wagner.

Wilhelm Titel was a pupil of Johann Gottfried Quistorp at Greifswald before moving to Dresden in 1801, at the same time as his friends, Caspar David Friedrich and Philippe Otto Runge. From 1802 to 1806 he lived in Vienna and came under the influence of Rene Theodore Berthon, a pupil of David. He was then in Italy from 1806 to 1819, from 1816 in Rome, where he was a friend of Canova. In 1828 he succeeded Quistorp as drawing master at the University of Greifswald. His best known works are the portraits of the painters Hackert, whom he knew in Florence, and Von Bergen, both of which now hang in the Hamburger Kunsthalle.

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