Title: Colla Sinistra: portrait of Clara Schumann
Material: Oil on canvas
Art is a fine gift! What, indeed, is finer than to clothe one’s feelings in music, what a comfort in time of trouble, what a pleasure, what an exquisite feeling to give happy hours to so many people!
— Clara Schumann
Robert Schumann is such a minor character in this double portrait that he’s not even present, leaving us with no choice but to consider this painting’s supporting subject, Bob’s wife Clara, who covered for his physical and psychological absences by reaching continental celebrity status through non-stop gigging, teaching piano, and composing and publishing music. The Schumann’s had 8 children to raise and put through boarding school, and Clara enabled this too. “She could bring home the bacon, and fry it up in a pan…”, to quote a line from no song of hers.
In this composition I allow the oval, 19th– century studio photo matt to sag into an egg-shape, a symbol of fertility. One of the roses (pressed within the frame?) is missing. Like Robert.
The title “Colla Sinistra” is a musical term that refers to piano music composed for the left hand, and notated as “Cs”, which also happens to be Clara’s initials. See how that works?