Chopin by Delacroix 1838
“ You cannot know what a torture I find the three days preceding a concert.“
Writing to Titus : Do you remember our talk at Vienna, the night before you left? The wind has blown me here; it’s good to rest, but perhaps one frets more when things are easy. Paris is whatever you choose : you can amuse yourself, be bored, laugh, cry, do anything you like, and nobody looks at you; because thousands of others are doing the same as you, and everyone goes his own road. I don’t know where there can be so many pianists as in Paris, so many asses and so many virtuosi.
Chopin’s translated correspondence can be found here :
A slim frame of middle height; fragile but wonderfully flexible limbs; delicately-formed hands; very small feet; an oval, softly outlined head; a pale, transparent complexion; long silken hair of a light chestnut colour, parted on one side; tender brown eyes, intelligent rather than dreamy; a finely-curved aquiline nose; a sweet subtle smile; graceful and varied gestures: such was the outward presence of Chopin. As to the colour of the eyes and hair, the authorities contradict each other most thoroughly. Liszt describes the eyes as blue, Karasowski as dark brown, and M. Mathias as couleur de bière. ”His large limpid, expressive, and soft eyes had that tint which the English call auburn, which the Poles, his compatriots, describe as “piwne” (colour of beer), and which the French would denominate brown.” Of the hair Liszt says that it was blonde, Madame Dubois and others that it was cendre, Miss L. Ramann that it was dark blonde, and a Scotch lady that it was dark brown. Count Wodzinski writes: ”It was not blonde, but of a shade similar to that of his eyes: ash-coloured (cendre), with golden reflections in the light.” Happily the matter is settled for us by an authority to which all others must yield–namely, by M. T. Kwiatkowski, the friend and countryman of Chopin, an artist who has drawn and painted the latter frequently. Well, the information I received from him is to the effect that Chopin had des yeux bruns tendres (tender brown eyes), and les cheveux blonds chatains (chestnut-blonde hair). Liszt, from whose book some of the above details are derived, completes his portrayal of Chopin by some characteristic touches. The timbre of his voice, he says, was subdued and often muffled; and his movements had such a distinction and his manners such an impress of good society that one treated him unconsciously like a prince. His whole appearance made one think of that of convolvulus, which on incredibly slender stems balance divinely-coloured chalices of such vaporous tissue that the slightest touch destroys them.
Delacroix wrote about a visit Nohant in June 1842 :
The hosts could not be more pleasant in entertaining me. When we are not all together at dinner, lunch, playing billiards, or walking, each of us stays in his room, reading or lounging around on a couch. Sometimes, through the window which opens on the garden, a gust of music wafts up from Chopin at work. All this mingles with the songs of nightingales and the fragrance of roses.
His redingotes were tailored in black, pale grey, mauve, or royal blue. His shirts were of white batiste. While the dandies strove to outsmart one another with vests in many hues and bizarre colour patterns, and with off-white or off-yellow gloves, Fryderyk opted for “a black, modest vest … with a tiny sober design, something very modestly elegant.” And he chose immaculate white gloves over any colour. When he composed at home, Chopin liked to wear an unbleached muslin blouse with mother-of-pearl buttons. He was conscious of footwear, patronising a Brown’s and Chez Rapp, shoemaking establishments that custom-made shoes for his small feet (Rapp specialised in varnished boots). And he had a hat maker, Dupont on the rue Mont-Blanc, who remembered that Fryderyk liked hats light in weight.
Unlike the dandies, Chopin preferred muted cravats. A former pupil recalled that in the daytime Fryderyk wore “a long and wide cravat, covering his shirt” and a broad white silk cravat when he performed in formal surroundings. To tie a cravat was an art, and, according to l’Art de la Toilette, a book then in wide circulation, there were seventy-two ways of doing it. It is lost in the mists of time how Chopin tied his cravat, but he may have been familiar with his friend Balzac’s essay — The Cravat Considered in Itself and Its Relation to Society and Individuals. Finally, Chopin was most meticulous about “good soap” and “scented water”.
The overall effect was stunning. Liszt wrote: “there was so much distinction in his posture and his manners had the mark of such good upbringing that he was treated like a prince”.
Tad Szulc : Chopin in Paris: The Life and Times of the Romantic Composer
Chopin’s three sisters — Ludwika, Izabela and Emilia