Cabinet card of Czech virtuoso violinist Jan Kubelík

Violinist Jan Kubelík cabinet card by Mally, Chicago. Private Collection.

Violinist Jan Kubelík cabinet card by Mally, Chicago. Private Collection.

Jan Kubelík

BY Carl Sandburg

Your bow swept over a string, and a long low note quivered to the air.
(A mother of Bohemia sobs over a new child, perfect, learning to suck milk.)

Your bow ran fast over all the high strings fluttering and wild.
(All the girls in Bohemia are laughing on a Sunday afternoon in the hills with their lovers.)

When I came across this beautiful cabinet card I instantly recognized the violinist. This young man’s tousled hair is unmistakable and the pose is typical of him, his violin looking highly polished under his arm, his bow hanging low on his hand.

I’d previously written another post about Jan Kubelík last March, illustrated with a real photo postcard I don’t have in my collection.

Born July 5, 1880, Jan went on tour for the first time to the United States in 1901-02 when he was only 21 or 22, already an internationally renowned musician. This cabinet card was made on his first visit to Chicago.

Because Jan’s rising fame straddled the period when cabinet cards fell into disuse as real photo postcards took their place, cabinet cards of Jan are rare. There are more pictures of him on real photo postcards and I have not seen this particular pose before.

Here are two more shots of Jan from the same period I found online (he’s wearing the same style of slim overcoat on all his portraits):

A few fact about Jan Kubelík:

  • His recordings contributed greatly to the success of the gramophone.
  • He married a countess in 1903, Anna Julie Marie Széll von Bessenyö, had eight children with her and remained married to her until his death in 1940. All his children became musicians.
  • His sixth child, son Rafael Kubelik, became an internationally renowned conductor, violinist and pianist in his own right. In 1950 he became director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
  • In spring 1912 Jan performed a concert of painter Jean Dominique Ingres’ favorite musical pieces on the deceased artist’s violin (who knew the painter could play too?). This recital inspired attending French painter Georges Braque to paint Violin: “Mozart Kubelick” (sic). A year later the painting was included in the Armory Show, the exhibition that introduced modern art to America. The painter had misspelled the violinist’s name, giving rise to puns about cubist Braque being the one who put the “cube in Kubelik” and the “art in Mozart”.

Photographer: Mally. 570 W. 13th St. Chicago. For reference, Mally is the same studio as Prencel & Mally found on other Chicago based cabinet cards.

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