Chopin the Draftsman

What a nameday wish card and a calligraphy exercise book can tell us

By The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Paweł Bień (Chopin Institute)

The Great National Theater in Warsaw (19th Century) by Adam PilińskiThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

The Wunderkind

From an early age, Fryderyk Chopin was considered to be endowed with great talent. Few probably realized, however, what a versatile mind that child had.

Polonez g-moll Polonez g-moll (1817/1817) by Fryderyk ChopinThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Not only music

The first attempts at composing music brought surprisingly mature results for a six-year-old composer. About the same age, little Frycek also revealed another ability...
 

Notebook for calligraphy Page 1The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Gift from Chopin

In the first days of December 1816, Fryderyk prepared a nameday card for his beloved father, Mikołaj. He probably did not anticipate that his unusual gift would become a museum object.

Portrait of Mikołaj Chopin (21st Century) by Katarzyna GągolThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Father's name day

On his father's nameday, little Fryderyk presented Mikołaj Chopin with a self-made card, drawn with a pencil on paper. A wreath of bay leaves and oak, tied with a decorative bow, surrounds the following wishes:
 

Best wishes to his father on his name day (19th Century) by Fryderyk ChopinThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

When the world announces your nameday celebration

it fills me with joy as well, my Papa, 
with the cause of declaring my feelings: 
May you live happily, free from unpleasant blows,
always favored by God of good fortune, 
These are the wishes I eagerly announce.

The surprise

Today, we may be surprised not only by the skill of a six-year-old's hand which drew the then popular motif of a laurel wreath so nimbly, but also by the neatness of his handwriting. What did little Fryderyk owe such shapely letters to?

Notebook for calligraphy Page 8The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

A lesson in calligraphy

Searching for an answer to this question, we come across an interesting trace. An inconspicuous exercise book dating from 1813-1816, i.e. a few years later than the card, shows how diligently Chopin practiced the art of calligraphy, i.e. beautiful writing.  

Notebook for calligraphy Page 7The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

However, we can assume that the calligraphy exercise book we know today was preceded by other, similar ones, filled with exercises typical of childhood.

Letter from Fryderyk Chopin to his family in Warsaw – ‘Szafarnia Courier’ (1824-08-27) by Fryderyk ChopinThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Literary skils

In addition to the gift for drawing, the six-year-old Fryderyk Chopin's nameday card for Dad reveals one more talent of the Wunderkind: literary skills, the best proof of which will be found in the letters written by the composer.

Best wishes to his father on his name day (19th Century) by Fryderyk ChopinThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

With a Little Help From my... Sisters?

While we can find little Chopin's card touching and surprising, they may also make us skeptical about the independence of Fryderyk's work. Who knows, perhaps his beloved sisters helped him create this amazing proof of affection for his father?
 

Credits: Story

Paweł Bień (Chopin Institute)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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