There it is – Chopin’s profile beneath a statue of a weeping Muse, which is dated ‘Clésinger 1850’. The monument was erected a year after the funeral, and was sculpted by Clésinger, who was also the architect of the rift between George Sand and Chopin.
The statue has a clumsy right arm, and the thumb and forefinger have been broken off the right hand. The grave is covered with flowers, and draped with red and white ribbons representing the Polish flag. Crows caw amidst the leafy, autumn-tinted canopy, and visitors pause, then shuffle past as French guides point to the grave, one mentioning Clésinger who was married to George Sand’s daughter, Solange. He also mentions the Polish earth sprinkled on the coffin, and Chopin’s heart taken back to Warsaw by Chopin’s sister, Ludwika. A young woman hums the melody from the E flat major nocturne; two elderly men wait till the crowd has gone, one removes his cap, and holds it to his heart while he is photographed beside the grave.
Chopin would probably have hated the gawping crowds. But his immediate neighbours are a musical lot; nearby is the violinist Habeneck and the composer Cherubini; around the corner and up the hill is Bellini, whose bel canto operas and friendship meant so much to Chopin; there too is Ignaz Pleyel, founder of the Pleyel piano firm.
Elsewhere in the cemetery lie other contemporaries -Rossini and Balzac; and friend/artist/pallbearer Delacroix, whose famous painting of Chopin hangs in the Louvre, and whose diaries tell us about summers spent together at Nohant, Sand’s country house. Ironically, poet Alfred de Musset is here, too; he shares the dubious distinction of being another of George Sand’s jilted lovers. Musset and Sand went to Venice in 1833 during the ‘honeymoon’ period of their relationship; he fell ill and she nursed him, a rehearsal for Chopin and Sand’s Majorcan experience a few years later.
Well, my mission is accomplished. I wend my way back down the cobbled paths to the cemetery’s entrance.
Frédéric Chopin, 1810-1849. RIP.