Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Eva Mudocci- Violinist and Muse for Edvard Munch.

By Andy Fein, Luthier at Fein Violins and
Ivana Truong

You know those stories about a picture or a violin or something turning up in grandma's attic after being stored away for 50 years? Very infrequently, it's actually something worth taking a second look at. Even less frequently, it's something of value.

St. Olaf College, in Northfield, MN had one of those moments recently. A painting that they've had in their collection and hung on the wall in the president's dining room for about 20 years might have been painted by Edvard Munch, the painter of "The Scream".

What caught my ear in this story was the speculation that the subject of the painting was a violinist, Eva Mudocci.
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"Eva", the possible Munch

St. Olaf College might have a painting of violinist Eva Mudocci, painted by Edvard Munch

Figure on cliffside walkway holding head with hands
The Scream, Munch's most famous work

Who was Eva Mudocci? And why would Edvard Munch want to paint her????

Eva Mudocci, who was born as Evangeline Muddock, had an exceptionally interesting life. In 1872, she was born in England to J.E. Preston Muddock, a popular mystery novelist, and Lucy Mary Hann, a concert violinist. She took music lessons from Carl Schneider, who gifted her his 1703 'Emiliani' Stradivarius upon his death. The 'Emiliani' has, in more recent times, been played by Anne Sophie-Mutter!

Anne-Sophie Mutter Playing the 1703 Emiliani Stradivarius
Hear Anne-Sophie Mutter play the 1703 Emiliano Stradivarius

In 1883, Evangeline/Eva debuted in Northern Ireland under the stage name "Rose Lynton". Under that name, she toured London, Portsmouth, and Berlin, and was highly praised. The "Derbyshire Advertiser" stating "Miss Rose Lynton as a lady violinist has few equals. For brilliancy of execution as well as for perfect harmonies she is really wonderful. All the number allotted to her were loudly encored."

She continued touring, later changing her name again, this time to "Eva Mudocci", which was meant to sound more Italian. She then began her 50 year life and musical partnership with Bella Edwards, touring Stockholm, Paris, and parts of Scandinavia. They were particularly popular in Norway, where their farewell concert had over 3,000 listeners!

Eva Mudocci

In 1903 while touring Paris, she was introduced to Edvard Munch through the composer Frederick Delius. They then began a relationship that was on/off until 1909, and may have resulted in twin children. In that time, Munch painted her on multiple occasions. In 1903, he made 3 lithographs: "Violin Concert", "The Brooch", and "Salome". The first lithograph, "The Violin Concert" depicts Bella Edwards and Eva Mudocci while performing during a concert in Berlin. "The Brooch" is a lithograph of Mudocci peering thoughtfully to the side above a large brooch. The image actually resembles Munch's "Madonna", painted earlier in 1895. Munch described the women in "Madonna" as "encompass[ing] all the beauty of the earthly realm". The resemblance likely shows how he felt about Mudocci at the time. The last lithograph of Eva Mudocci, "Salome", seems the most intimate. In the image, Mudocci's arms and hair surrounds Munch.

"The Violin Concert" by Edvard Munch showing violinist Eva Mudocci and pianist Bella Edwards
In her book The Symbolist Prints of Edvard Munch, author and researcher Elizabeth Prelinger says that in the above lithograph Eva is holding her "extremely valuable violin- the Emiliano d'Oro Stradivarius".

"The Brooch" by Edvard Munch

"Salome" by Edvard Munch
Up until now, it was thought that there were no other Munch works depicting Mudocci. Although he painted her several times, he would always destroy the result.  Mudocci said "He wanted to make a perfect portrait of me but each time he began on an oil painting he destroyed it, because he was not happy with it." However, one may still exist! A partially finished, unauthenticated painting, now simply called "Eva", was donated to the St. Olaf by Richard Tetlie, an alumni, as part of a 2,000 piece collection. Since then, it has hung in St. Olaf's president's residence, fairly inconspicuously.

However, Rima Shore, who studies Eva Mudocci, recently approached St. Olaf with some new research suggesting Tetlie had purchased a Munch painting of Eva Mudocci. Ms. Shore is currently working on a book about Eva Mudocci with the working title "Lady With a Brooch". Watch for its publication! I'm sure it will have much more in depth, very well researched information about Eva Mudocci.

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"Eva", the possible Munch
To investigate, experts from the research firm 'Scientific Analysis of Fine Art' came to the school on October 2nd and collected small paint samples. These paint samples will be compared with more than 900 of Munch's paint tubes, currently owned by the Munch Museum. Combined with stylistic analysis, a team of experts will determine whether or not the painting is a Munch, and share the results in several weeks.

It seems that artists were drawn to Mudocci. She must have been an incredibly charismatic character! In 1915, she was drawn by Henri Matisse in a series of 3 charcoal drawings. Though the most famous of the drawings is fairly abstract, the other 2 more clearly identify Mudocci as the subject. Though less well known, Petro Svendsen and Theodore Spicer Simson also created images of Mudocci and Bella Edwards in concert. Even after her death, Andy Warhol recreated "The Brooch" in colored silkscreen prints. Mudocci must have been incredibly fascinating for her to inspire all these artists during her life and after her death.

Eva Mudocci, Henri Matisse (French, Le Cateau-Cambrésis 1869–1954 Nice), Pencil on jointed paper mounted on canvas
The most famous of Matisse's 3 charcoal drawings of Mudocci

Petro Svendsen's pencil drawing of Edwards and Mudocci
Andy Warhol's version of "The Brooch"
Addendum- February 4, 2019- Rima Shore's book, "Lady with a Brooch" has been published.

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