The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Carl Fettich and Mr Sommer

Carl Fettich and Mr Sommer

A carte-de-visite showing two men with zithers. The portrait was taken at the London branch of Disdéri’s business, the backplate giving the address of the studio at 4 Brook Street, London.

The last advertisement that Disdéri placed in The Times in 1867 appeared on 8 July, at which time the address of the studio was given as 70, 71, and 72, Brook Street. By April of the following year, the studio had moved to number 4. Therefore, the address – 4, Brook Street – dates the portrait to no earlier than the spring of 1867.

In fact, the date can be pinpointed more accurately. An advertisement placed in the Classified Columns of The Times on 2 April 1868 announced that Disdéri’s London studio was open for the season. A few weeks later, on 27 May 1868, the same journal announced that Disdéri had, on 25 May, petitioned the Lord Chancellor for the winding-up of his company, and that the petition would be heard by the Vice-Chancellor on 5 June.

The portrait was therefore taken sometime between April 1867 and June 1868.

The only zither player mentioned in the Classified Advertisements of The Times around this time is a Professor Fettig or Herr Fittich. An advertisement placed on 5 November 1867 advised the public that ‘Professor Fittig, who had the honour of performing before their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales at Marlborough House, has returned from the continent. He gives lessons on the zither, and is open to engagements to play before select audiences. Address: 93, Warwick Street, Belgrave Road.’ The following year, at a concert on 26 June 1868 at the Hanover Square Rooms one of the featured instrumentalists was Herr Fittich on the zither, almost certainly the same man.

The 1871 census shows a Carl Fittig, ‘Professor of Music’, living as a lodger at 10, Gillingham Street [off Belgrave Road]. He gave ‘Germany’ as his birthplace, and at the time of the census he was 38 years old, so he was born in or about 1833.

It’s only conjecture but in my opinion the man seated at the table is Carl Fittich. The identity of the other man is more problematic. However, a review printed in The Musical Times on 1 August 1867 reads: ‘The Matinée given by Herr Carl Fittig at the Beethoven Rooms on the 6th ult. was interesting to all who can appreciate the skill of the concert-giver upon his instrument, the zither, for he played two solos of his own composition, and a duet with his pupil, Mr Sommer, so well as to elicit the loudest demonstration of applause from the audience. He was assisted by several well-known vocalists, and by Signor Risegari, a young violin player, who, in his solo performance exhibited a good tone and very fair executive powers. The conductors were Herr Lehmeyer, and Mr. Sidney Naylor.’

Photographed at Disdéri's London studio.


Code: 123039
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© Paul Frecker 2019