Chopin’s Identity, Character and Signature Examined

Posted: March 1, 2012 in Piano

Portrait of Fryderyk Chopin.

Image via Wikipedia

In prior blogs about typology, I pointed out that you can learn a lot about people by listening to what they say. Well, I just discovered this morning that graphologists, who also use Jungian typology, gather information about people by analyzing their handwriting.

Since today is Frederick Chopin’s birthday, I thought it might be interesting to contribute an article about Chopin’s handwriting, in hopes of revealing insights into his personality. I also found an interesting article about Chopin in the January 1936 edition of The Etude. A link below directs you to a list of question and answers about Chopin which you may also find interesting.

Chopin’s Signature

Graphology is regarded as “an amazing tool for revealing personality and exploring human behavior.”

Chopin’s signature can be found on this document. [Use the zoom tool to see it]

I know someone who has an interest in handwriting analysis, so I asked her to review the signature and comment. Here are some snippets from her initial review.

  • sexually frustrated, eccentric, dark thoughts, violent tendancies, open to talk about success assoc. w/ family
  • but not about personal childhood or self. Wants recognition but grows tired of atten. & withdrawls socially-reclusively
  • analytical thinker-perfectionist traits, critical, hard on self especially-intense to point of obsession not compulsion
  • looks like he believes he is influenced by dark forces or “evil” but gotta look longer & closer to know for sure…
  • also looks as if he was artistically inclined besides just music- drawing or sketching perhaps.
  • appears to be stroke that could signify disease or illness- will look more.

I also searched online using “handwriting analysis of Chopin” as the parameter and I only found this site which concludes,  “So on reflection, – I think that ‘disciplined passion’ is probably the best way I can describe his handwriting. And yes, that’s the exact phrase I would use to describe his exquisitely beautiful music too.”

Questions and Answers about Chopin

There is no shortage of opinions about the personality of Chopin. He remains a source of mystery. I found a webpage which supplies sets of answers to some of the more common questions about Chopin.

Question 10 caught my eye. Why [sic] Chopin was a Polish patriot ? What was in his music that made him a Polish patriot?

Tracing the Source of Chopin’s Nationalism

The only answer given was: “Chopin considered himself a ‘nationalist’ and is considered by Poland to be one. However, Chopin was not actively or blatantly nationalist. He never used his status as a means of aiding Poland in a political sense. Politically, his national stance came from his voluntary exile from Poland. I suppose you could call him conscientious objector to the Russian regime in Poland. His music, however, is what makes Chopin a nationalist. He drew from Polish folk music for inspiration and, though some musicologists would argue, wrote his despair for Poland into his music. For more info, read Marek’s or Sculz’s biography about Chopin.”

Signature of Frederic Chopin

A different view can be found in a book entitled “Chopin – His Life” by William Murdoch. A review of the book, written by an unattributed author, can be found in the January 1936 edition of The Etude.

Murdock writes of Chopin’s father Nicholas and his attitude as a piano teacher.

“Nicholas Chopin was much beloved by his pupils, … His strong sense of steadfastness, his integrity, patriotism and dignity assured him the admiration   of all who knew him. “

Murdock reinforces this claim with a report gained from one of Nicholas’ pupils, and Frederic’s Godfather, Count Frederick Skarbek, who expressed “sincere gratitude of the teachings of his former tutor, and attributed the success of his own career as poet, scientist, man of letters and University Professor to the solid groundings of his early lessons. The fundamental principles upon which all the pupils were taught were patriotism, fine qualities of citizenship, and truthfulness. Nicholas knew that without this foundation the noblemen of the Poland of the future could never hope either to rescue their country from the Russian stranglehold, or to rebuild it to its former greatness.”

Together, these two answers to the question about Chopin’s nationalism provide a slightly different view. It would appear that any nationalist sentiments which Chopin possessed were derived from his teachers, and most likely, the generation of citizens who preceded Chopin’s generation. It was they who held the stronger sentiments, and sought to preserve those sentiments by instilling the value of patriotism in their children. Chopin then would have been a nationalist in spirit, but maybe not in action (as is stated in the first answer.) The subject is speculative.

Cultural Attitudes in Historical Analysis

But the greater revelation in reading these two answers which reflect views penned 80 years a part, is the importance that cultural attitudes play in an historical analysis. Referring to Chopin as a “conscientious objector” presumes to know his deepest thoughts. History must be interpreted within the framework of its own cultural influences. Where historians gain from being objective to the subject, they lose clarity and accuracy by being detached from the cultural influences which most certainly affected and shaped a person’s thoughts and actions.  History suffers under the hand of its many interpreters.

If Chopin was a Nationalist, it would not be accurate to use our present-day understanding of what a nationalist is in our determination of who Chopin was. Murdoch suggests that the fervor of nationalism was deeply held by Chopin’s father, but we can only guess the true nature and quality of that nationalism, the impact it had on his son during his upbringing, and the effectiveness of that influence. Likewise, in Chopin’s preference for using national songs as the basis for his many compositions, we cannot know if he was acting on a learned behavior, or simply choosing favored songs as subjects for his compositions. It seems likely that his love for Poland and its music was deeply ingrained in Chopin from an early age. I am not a student of the history of that time, so it is hard for me gain an appreciation for Chopin’s life or the attitudes of the Polish people.  From my work in genealogy, I have found that an expansive and thorough understanding of history is absolutely necessary to gain an appreciation of a person’s life.

Having entertained the opinions of two writers, I am left with as much doubt about Chopin as when I started, and graphology, for all its claims, also leaves me in doubt as to the true identity, disposition and character of Frederic Chopin.  I am better for the examination though. As I finish this writing, I have found a site which lists some of Chopin’s quotes.  I think I will read his words next and see if I can hear who he was, and later, play his music at the piano, so I can hear who he is, who he remains to be.







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