On January 24th… “Barcarolle”

‘I think I can promise you that you will feel even less humorous as the evening advances. Now, look here, Count Sylvius. I’m a busy man and I can’t waste time. I’m going into that bedroom. Pray make yourselves quite at home in my absence. You can explain to your friend how the matter lies without the restraint of my presence. I shall try over the Hoffmann Barcarolle upon my violin. In five minutes I shall return for your final answer. You quite grasp the alternative, do you not? Shall we take you, or shall we have the stone?’

Holmes withdrew, picking up his violin from the corner as he passed. A few moments later the long-drawn, wailing notes of that most haunting of tunes came faintly through the closed door of the bedroom.

Portrait of Hoffmann by an unidentified painter ca. 1800 (University of Adelaide), via Wikimedia Commons

Ernst Theodor Amadeus (E. T. A.) Hoffmann was born Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann on January 24th, 1776, in Königsberg, East Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia).

He was a painter, a composer, and a writer. Three of his stories – “Der Sandmann” (The Sandman), Rath Krespel (Councillor Krespel; published in English translation as The Cremona Violin), and Die Geschichte vom verlorenen Spiegelbilde (The Story of the Lost Reflection) – formed the basis of Offenbach’s final opera, “The Tales of Hoffmann”. The soprano/mezzo-soprano duet, “Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour”, is considered the most famous barcarolle ever written and often referred to as simply “The Barcarolle”.

[Hat-tip to Leah Guinn and Jaime N Mahoney and their fantastic A Curious Collection of Dates: Through the Year with Sherlock Holmes”]

On April 12th…

Portrait of Constantin Meunier by Max Liebermann

Sherlock Holmes had, in a very remarkable degree, the power of detaching his mind at will. For two hours the strange business in which we had been involved appeared to be forgotten, and he was entirely absorbed in the pictures of the modern Belgian masters. He would talk of nothing but art, of which he had the crudest ideas, from our leaving the gallery until we found ourselves at the Northumberland Hotel. [HOUN]

Constantin Meunier, Belgian painter and sculptor, was born April 12, 1831 in Brussels. Could he be the Oscar Meunier mentioned in the Canon?

Meunier trained at the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, beginning in 1845. On the advice of Charles de Groux, he focused on painting before returning to sculpture later in his career. More information about his life can found in A Curious Collection of Dates by JWHS members Leah Guinn (“Amber”) and Jaime N Mahoney (“Tressa”).

More information about the wax bust credited to Oscar Meunier may be found at John A Lanzalotti’s site: Williamsburg Sculpture:

Wax bust of Holmes

In the sixty reminiscences of Dr. Watson better known as the Sherlock Holmes stories, there are two references to a wax bust made in the likeness of Sherlock Holmes by a French sculptor. The first reference is in the Return of Sherlock Holmes. The credit of the execution is due to Monsieur Oscar Meunier, of Grenoble, who spent some days in doing the molding. It is a bust in wax. ” The second reference is in the Mazarin Stone. Sherlock Holmes tells his assassin that the wax effigy was made by Tavernier, the French modelier. These names however, are either pseudonyms or the individuals were so obscure that history passed them by with no other reference. It seems odd that Sherlock Holmes would have two life-sized busts made in his image by two different sculptors. Both busts were said to be the identical image of Holmes.

On February 13th… Train Robbery!

Here, in the words of Sherlock Holmes, is what the evil criminal Count Negretto Sylvius was up to on this day, according to the “squat notebook” in Holmes’s table drawer:

“It’s all here, Count. The real facts as to the death of old Mrs. Harold, who left you the Blymer estate, which you so rapidly gambled away.”
“You are dreaming!”
“And the complete life history of Miss Minnie Warrender.”
“Tut! You will make nothing of that!”
“Plenty more here, Count. Here is the robbery in the train-de-luxe to the Riviera on February 13th, 1892. Here is the forged cheque in the same year on the Crédit Lyonnais.” [MAZA]

Could this 68-carat yellow diamond be the famous Mazarin Stone the Count was after? It was sold at a Christie’s auction in 2012 for $3.16 million.

Information from A Curious Collection of Dates by Leah Guinn (“Amber”) and Jaime N Mahoney (“Tressa”). [With additional information from Forbes and Jewelry News Network. –Selena Buttons]