Iconic $2.5 Million Portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach Returns to Leipzig

The most famous portrait of the iconic German composer Johann Sebastian Bach went on public display for the first time in decades when it was unveiled to enthusiastic applause at the Nikolai Kirche in Leipzig on Friday, AFP reports.

The unveiling of the 1748 portrait by Elias Gottlieb Haussmann marks the return of the painting to Bach’s hometown after it was bequeathed to the Leipzig Bach Archive by the late American philanthropist William Scheide, who died in November of last year aged 100.

The famous portrait returned to Leipzig on Friday Photo: Peter Endig via AFP Photo/DPA

The painting has been valued at $2.5 million
Photo: Peter Endig via AFP Photo/DPA

In an emotional speech, Scheide’s daughter Barbara announced “Bach is coming home.”

The ceremony was accompanied by songs from Leipzig’s famous St Thomas Boys Choir, which Bach directed from 1723 to 1750.

A statement from the Bach museum said “The portrait, which probably everyone has already seen once in their life, is an icon of music history and, to judge by the sources, is the only true portrayal of the composer.”

The painting was unveiled at the Nikolaikirche, Leipzig. Photo: jolantakowalska.com

The painting was unveiled at the Nikolaikirche, Leipzig.
Photo: jolantakowalska.com

The portrait’s whereabouts were unknown for several years after the Jewish owner Walter Jenke fled Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland) from the Nazis in the 1930s.

During World War II the painting was kept safe in the countryside home of the Gardiner family in Dorset, England who were friends of the Jenkes.

Interestingly, the president of the Bach Archive, John Elliot Gardiner, grew up with the portrait. He remarked that it was “gratifying” to see the portrait return to Bach’s former hometown of Leipzig.

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