Chaconne - Painter Prinz and Harriet Adams 1911

Image description see below.

Oil on canvas ca. 200 x 230 cm
Signature: John Quincy Ɑdams
Unknown private collection (USA?)
Image: Reproduction New York Graphical Society .

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.

As Adams' most popular work, the provenance of the painting is unfortunately completely unclear. Offered for sale at the 1911 Künstlerhaus exhibition at (hefty) 12,000 crowns, it was again exhibited the following year (this time even valued at 18,000 crowns) and also did not sell at the exhibition. 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). It can certainly be assumed that the painting found an art-loving, wealthy buyer similar to the Gallia family, who also had the appropriate premises to present the giant painting accordingly, but all Viennese sources are without any information in this regard. Only in the estate of the Countess Walderdorff there is a note which assumes Chaconne in the USA (Mrs. Erna Newton in Los Alamitos, California), a trace which, however, could not be pursued successfully so far. The owner(s) believed to be in the USA are therefore still being sought. (For US readers: the owner(s) of Chaconne, a very large ca. 90 by 80 inches painting, are kindly asked to contact the catalogue editor, or to submit a photo of the current state of the painting for research purposes).


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.


Unknown private collection (USA?).