Michael Lorenz

Mozart's Last Residence: A Few Necessary Comments


The frontispiece of the June 2009 issue of Acta Mozartiana reproduces Johann Peter Lyser's drawing of 'Mozart's last residence' from 1847, accompanied by Laurenz Lüttecken's rather sentimental obituary for the building, regretting the lack of 'any public protest' against its destruction. Lüttecken quotes from Lyser's article 'Das Mozarthaus in Wien', published in the supplement of Frankl's journal Sonntagsblätter[1] where Lyser bitterly complained about a 'greedy speculator' (the Italian Pietro di Galvagni[2]) who, 'to Vienna's disgrace, destroyed the Mozart house'.


Johann Peter Lyser's drawing of the supposed 'Mozarthaus' from 1847


In fact, Johann Peter Lyser never saw the house where Mozart had died, because, as of at least 1806, this house no longer existed in its original state. Except for the tiny depiction on Joseph Daniel von Huber's 'Plan der k.k. Haupt- und Residenzstadt'[3], we have no visual representation of this house. The building that was destroyed in 1847, the one that Lyser passed on to posterity in his drawing, had only the foundation in common with the earlier building. It is all the more astonishing, in light of the readily available sources on the history of the house Stadt 970, that the date of demolition of the old 'Kleines Kaiserhaus' is still often given as 1847. Furthermore, the commonly used name 'Kleines Kaiserstein'sches Haus' is a misnomer.



The entry about the 'Kleines Kaiserhaus' in the 1788 Steuerfassion that proves that the original building had five floors (A-Wsa, Steueramt, Fassion B.34/4, fol. 412f.)



The sources concerning the history of the building are unambiguous, as was already pointed out by Otto Erich Deutsch in 1956.[4] The entry in the fourth series of the Josephinische Steuerfassion [5] (a tax register drawn up in 1787/88), which refers to the house Stadt 970, shows unequivocally that the house in question had five stories consisting of eighteen rentable housing units. The original height of the building is also documented on both versions of Huber's map, showing that the 'Kleines Kaiserhaus' was the same height as the adjacent building, Stadt 971. Huber's drawing also proves that in Mozart's time, Stadt 970 already had two courtyards. Therefore, the projected 'construction of a second courtyard', based on a construction plan from 1806 as presented by Else Radant in her study on Mozart's last apartment, cannot have been related to the old building.[6] There would have been no sense in referring to a 'Neues Höfel' (a new small courtyard) on an application for a structural modification of a building that already had two courtyards.


The commemorative plaque in Rauhensteingasse 8 with the wrong date '1849'.


Before I address the specifics of the 'Kleines Kaiserhaus', I'd like to provide some basic background on the customary application for a 'Baukonsens' (construction permit) in eighteenth-century Vienna. Every 'Bauabänderung' (structural modification) of a building had to be applied for at the Unterkammeramt (the department of the Vienna Magistrate responsible for the construction and administration of buildings, firefighting, city cleaning, and markets), and the application had to include a 'blueprint' of the intended construction. The submitted plans do not always represent the modification as it would in fact be realized, but they always show what was originally intended. Because every submitted plan showed only the part of the building to be modified, the holdings of the Unterkammeramt (which have unfortunately suffered massive losses over the years) contain not a single plan that shows the existing architectural status quo. Because it has been published countless times as 'Mozarts last residence', the most popular and best known picture of the house Stadt 970 in the Rauhensteingasse is Emil Hütter's copy of the elevation of the facade, originally drawn by the master builder Adam Hildwein[7], which was once part of the file Unterkammeramt 6834/1806. This front elevation shows a three-story building with a large portal and two narrow doors on the first floor that seem to have been intended as doors for shops. According to this elevation, the plan as submitted to the Unterkammeramt can only have served one purpose: the construction of a whole new building.


Emil Hütter's copy of Adam Hildwein's 1806 drawing of the new building (Wien Museum, I.N. 14627/2)


In 1991, in the catalogue of the 'Zaubertöne' exhibition[8], Walther Brauneis connected the elevation and the groundplan dating from 1806 with a presumed 'Aufstockung' (addition of stories), but this left one important question unanswered: When, and above all, why had the three other floors - which (according to the Steuerfassion) had still existed 20 years earlier - been torn down? Around 1800, it was absolutely unthinkable in Vienna to reduce an old and narrow building by three stories, leaving a gap between the adjacent houses, and leaving the first floor untouched, to be used as basis for the addition of new stories. I have never come across such a risky procedure in the primary sources related to the history of Viennese houses. The history of the house Stadt 969, adjacent to the south, which was built in 1786, after its predecessor, a 65-year-old courthouse had been destroyed, serves as a representative example of a complete replacement of a building with a new one. There is yet another clue that makes it seem possible that the 'Kleines Kaiserhaus' was torn down even earlier than 1806. On 16 April 1793, the owner of Stadt 970, Dr. Joseph Hopf, who on 6 April 1787, had bought the building for his children from his mother in law Elisabeth Davrecourt[9], submitted an application to the Unterkammeramt for a permission 'regarding the building of N° 970 in the Rauhensteingasse'.[10]


The entry concerning Dr. Hopf's 1793 application to build a house in the Rauhensteingasse (A-Wsa, Unterkammeramt B2/7, 4166/1793)


The application could have referred to a totally new construction, one that perhaps replaced the house in which Mozart had died. Whenever the new building was erected, in 1793 or in 1806, the original appearance of Mozart's last residence is certainly not shown in Hildwein's design of the facade. In 1785, the owner of the house, Elisabeth Davrecourt, submitted an application to 'establish a shop and construct a new doorway' in her house 'in Nro 970 in the Rauchensteingassel'.[11]


The entry concerning Elisabeth Davrecourt's application in 1785 (A-Wsa, Unterkammeramt B2/8, 3389/1785)


This new door cannot be seen in the 1806 drawing, which is yet another indication that the the building was completely reconstructed. The alteration to the new 'Kleines Kaiserhaus' in 1806 was not the last one before the building was torn down. On 10 March 1807, the owner Mathias Marchese Ordogno de Rosales received another unspecified building permit for his house[12], and in 1811, another modification (Unterkammeramt 7448/1811) was carried out. Unfortunately the files for this modification do not survive.


The entry concerning Marchese Ordogno de Rosales's Baukonsens in 1807 (A-Wsa, Unterkammeramt B2/9, 7301/1807)


We can summarize the situation as follows: the repeatedly published picture from 1806 of the house in the Rauhensteingasse is not the five story building in which Mozart died. The original house was replaced by a lower building either in 1793 or 1806. A picture of Mozart's last residence survives neither in Hildwein's elevation from 1806, nor in Lyser's 1847 drawing, nor in Wohlmuth's watercolor from 1820. It is only preserved in Joseph Daniel von Huber's Scenographie.


The house Stadt 970 in both editions of Joseph Daniel von Huber's 1778 Scenographie (Wien Museum, I.N. 19.524)


[1] Wienerbote, 16 January 1848, 19f.

[2] On Galvagni (1797-1868) and the so-called Mozarthof that was built in the Rauhensteingasse in 1847, see Richard Prilisauer, 'Pietro di L. A. Galvagni Geschäftsmann und Mäzen in Wien', Wiener Geschichtsblätter, 1976/ 3, 181-208. In 1849, Galvagni erected Vienna's earliest Mozart memorial in the hallway of the Mozarthof.

[3] Joseph Daniel von Huber: Scenographie oder Geometrisch Perspect. Abbildung der Kayl: Königl: Haubt: u: Residenz Stadt Wien in Oesterreich. Vienna 1778. Wien Museum, I.N. 19.524.

[4] O. E. Deutsch, 'Mozarts letztes Quartier', Österreichische Musikzeitschrift, 4/1956, 129-35. A case in point can be found in a self-published book by the German architect Leonhard Evertz. Evertz was aware of the Steuerfassion and he quotes Deutsch's statement that only Huber's plan shows the original house, but goes on to say: 'Dieser Meinung muß widersprochen werden, denn O. E. Deutsch konnte leider die Grundlagen einer architektonischen Interpretation nicht beherrschen. (…) Eine dreigeschoßige Anlage ist zu keiner Zeit vorhanden gewesen. Auch der Umbauplan[sic!] von Hildwein zeigt eine unveränderte Geschoßzahl.' Leonhard Evertz, Mozarts Sterbehaus. Seine letzte Wohnung: eine soziologische Betrachtung, (Aachen: Verlag Evertz, 1980), 22. Evertz assumes Huber's plan to be a 100% precise drawing of the city (which of course it is not) and bases his description of Mozart's last apartment entirely on irrelevant nineteenth-century documents. Another worthless source, which time and again turns up in the literature, is Lyser's fictitious floor plan of Mozart's apartment which was published in Josef Bermann's brochure Mozart's Sterbehaus in 1856. This product of Lyser's vivid imagination was again published as genuine in Tadeusz Krzeszowiak, Freihaustheater in Wien 1787-1801,  (Vienna: Böhlau, 2009), 196.

[5] A-Wsa, Steueramt, Fassion B.34/4, fol. 412f.

[6] Else Radant, 'Mozarts Wohnung und Garderobe', H. C. Robbins Landon, 1791- Mozarts letztes Jahr, (Düsseldorf: claassen Verlag, 1988), 249-259, here p. 250.

[7] Wien Museum, I.N. 14.627/2.

[8] Zaubertöne Mozart in Wien 1781-1791. (Vienna: Eigenverlag der Museen der Stadt Wien, 1991), 525. Given the fact that Brauneis explicitly refers to the Steuerfassion, his scenario of a five-story building being 'raised' in 1806 to a two-storied one is all the more peculiar. A summary of Brauneis's flawed perspective can be found in his article 'Mozarts Nachruhm', Wiener Geschichtsblätter, 1992/1, 1-7.

[9] A-Wsa, GB 1.23, fol. 253f. Elisabeth Diwalt had married Franz Da Backur (i.e. Davrecourt), an employee of Count Nikolaus von Esterházy, on 21 November 1762. A-Wd, Trauungsbuch Tom. 60. fol. 331r. Elisabeth Davrecourt's first husband Carl Diwalt was a distant relative of the Jenamy family. Mozart's landlord Dr. Joseph Hopf married Franziska Bettenberg, née Davrecourt on 2 May 1785. A-Ws, Trauungsbuch Tom. 75, fol. 50. Groom and bride resided at the 'Kleines Kaiserhaus' where the bride's first husband Anton Bettenberg had died on 13 January 1784. A-Wsa, Totenbeschreibamt 83, lit. BP, fol. 2v.

[10] A-Wsa, Unterkammeramt B.2/7, 4166/1793.

[11] A-Wsa, Unterkammeramt B.2/8, 3389/1785.

[12] A-Wsa, Unterkammeramt B.2/9, 7301/1807, file and plan do not survive.


This is an extended and illustrated translation of the article 'Mozarts Sterbehaus: Einige notwendige Anmerkungen', Acta Mozartiana, 56, vol. 2, (December 2009), 187-90.


See also: Mozart’s Apartment on the Alsergrund

© Dr. Michael Lorenz 2010. All rights reserved. Published on 5 September 2010 (last updated 25/10/10).                                 Upwards