A cello player accompanies a young girl at her first appearance. The cello player is seated on a wooden chair leaning far forward, his right foot placed backward, wearing dark gray trousers and dark brown jacket. The young girl, her head lowered, is ready to curtsy. She wears a golden-yellow dress with the same kind of mesh in her hair. The crinoline dress is trimmed with white lace at the neckline. Sheets of music are lying disorderly on the floor, in the background on the left a dark curtain, next to it a picture and a brass chandelier.
The original title of the painting refers to the persons depicted, the cello player is Karl Ludwig Prinz (1875-1944), landscape painter and friend of Adams, the young girl is Adams' daughter Harriet, later Countess Walderdorf (1905-1999). Carefully composed along a pictorial diagonal and with restrained colors, the painting draws the viewer's attention to the girl's golden-yellow dress, making her the "new star". The work is designed for broad public appeal, as is the painting's large format. The picture was a great success at the Künstlerhaus exhibition in 1911, especially because Emperor Franz Josef (an avid art collector) also showed interest (see cross-references). The painting quickly became the most published and reproduced work by Adams and is still widely distributed today as art postcards, art prints, and posters. The American reproduction was commissioned by the New York Graphical Society, and is titled "Her First Recital".
On the surface, Chaconne is charming and appeals to human emotions. But the painting, underneath the surface also takes a number of artistic liberties: There is no evidence that Karl Ludwig Prinz played cello at all; the title Chaconne is not inappropriate (as a "wild" dance originally brought to Europe from Latin America, similar to a folia), but the common cello literature, such as Bach's brilliant Chaconne in D minor BWV 1004 for solo violin which, arranged for cello, is a highlight of the cello literature, is probably neither playable for a layman, nor dance-able for a little girl. But perhaps because the viewer also has similar thoughts, the picture invites reverie and satisfies the longing for domestic idyll without falling into Biedermeier kitsch.
For the most popular work by Adams, its provenance was unfortunately completely unclear until 2023, when a letter from the owner Erna Newton to Countess Harriet Walderdorff (the artist's daughter) from 1972, which was previously misfiled in the Künstlerhaus Archive in Vienna, resurfaced and helped to clarify the matter. Chaconne was first exhibited at the 1911 Künstlerhaus exhibition and was very well received, being also illustrated in the exhibition catalog. It was offered for sale at 12,000 crowns, but remained unsold. The following year, the painting was again exhibited first in Venice and then again in the Vienna Künstlerhaus (this time even valued at 18,000 crowns) and was again not sold and remained with the artist. One explanation for this may be the high asking price (for a genre picture), which was in (Gustav) Klimt dimensions (10,000-30,000 Kr, Schlögl, 2012), but were definitely Adam's "league". For comparison (all figures based on Sandgruber 1913, p.471), the weekly wage of an industrial worker in 1910 was about 18 crowns, so the painting was equivalent to 1000 weekly wages, or the total gross wage of a worker over 20 years. Based on today's wage levels (600 euros gross/week), that would be 600,000 euros. The standard macro-economic conversion factor crowns 1910 to euros 2020 is between 5 and 7, so the price of the painting 1912 would be between 90,000 and 130,000 euros today, also a considerable sum. On the other hand, art lovers were also willing to pay very high prices. Segantini's symbolist painting "The Evil Mothers" was purchased for 100,000 crowns of donor money at the Secession exhibition in 1901 and donated to the Modern Gallery (today's Belvedere). Incidentally, the anonymous donor for the Segantini purchase was Moritz Gallia, after which Klimt reportedly finally agreed to paint a portrait of his wife Hermine, now in the National Gallery London, Bonyhady 2011).
As can be seen from Erna Newton's letter from 1972, Chaconne was finally acquired directly from the artist by the malt industrialist Leonhard Brach (1871-1952) from Olomouc (CZ) about 1914/1915. The connection probably came about through Adams' father-in-law Moritz Sobotka (see his Adams portrait from 1913), who also ran a malt factory in Vienna Stadlau. The picture was initially located in the Brach House in Olomouc and moved with Leonhard Brach's family to Dresden in 1922, where he assumed the position of director of the "Elbschloss Malzfabrik" in Schönau an der Elbe (D), which the Brachs had also acquired. (The factory in Czechoslovakia was managed by Leonhard's son Alfred Brach [1902-1973]). In the early 1930s, the Brachs also expanded into the U.S., where they founded the National Malting Company in Paterson, New Jersey, which operated a malting plant that primarily served the export market to Latin America. The company remained in family ownership until 1982. After the Nazi takeover of Germany in 1933, the Brach family was increasingly subjected to anti-Semitic hostility, and their businesses in Germany as well as Czechoslovakia were eventually Aryanized. Leonhard Brach and his wife Luise were the first of the family to leave Germany in 1936. Via Czechoslovakia, Switzerland and Cuba they finally reached Paterson in the USA. Other family members followed, partly on adventurous routes (e.g. via Moscow, Vladivostok, Japan and Cuba to the USA), again others became victims of the Shoa (two sisters of Leonhard Brach, see Hahn, 2008 and Viktořík, 2016). Due to the relatively early emigration, the family was also able to export parts of their household goods to the USA, including the Chaconne painting. It remained with Leonhard Brach until his death in 1952 and then passed by inheritance to his daughter Ernestine (Erna) Brach, married Blum, remarried Newton (1902-1974). The painting is still in the possession of her family descendants in the USA.
Karl Ludwig Prinz, entry OeBL
John Quincy Adams presents Chaconne 1911 at the Vienna Künstlerhaus to Emperor Franz Josef I. (Picture after Gause, w. legend)
The original by Wilhelm Gause 1911, private collection Austria.
1911 Künstlerhaus Wien (EL 56 1911/12 #3333).
1912 Esp. d'Arte Venezia, Venice room 39-40.
1912 Künstlerhaus Wien (EL 57 1912/13 #1491).
APH, Werksverzeichnis JQA 1995, S. 101, Kat.#69 Abb.#50.
Tim Bonyhady, Good Living Street: The Fortunes of My Viennese Family, Allen & Unwin, 2012.
Roman Sandgruber, Traumzeit für Milliadäre, Styria, 2013, S.471.
Michaela Schlögl, Klimt mit allen fünf Sinnen, Styria, 2012, S. 51 ff.
Hannelore Hahn, Auf dem Weg zu den Schwänen, autobiografische Erinnerungen einer Dresdner Jüdin, Stiftung Sächsische Gedenkstätten, Dresden 2008.
Michael Viktořík, The story of the Moravian Jewish Brach family, Czech and Slovak Journal of Humanities Historica 2/2016: 83-98.
1911-1914/1915 with the artist.
1914/15 purchase by Leonhard Brach Olmouc(CZ).
1916-1952 Leonhard Brach, Olmouc (CZ), Dresden (D) and Paterson (USA).
1952 by inheritance to his daughter Erna Newton, USA.
Since 1972 with her family descendants (son and granddaughter),
private collection USA.