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The romantic journey of George Sand and Fryderyk Chopin


Fryderyk Chopin and George Sand.
The trip to Majorca
The first stay in Palma (November 8-14, 1838)
At "Son Vent" in Establiments (November 15 - December 9, 1838)
The second stay in Palma (December 10-14, 1838)
At the Carthusian Monestary in Valldemossa (December 15 1838 - February 11, 1839)
The return to France
Works Chopin composed on Majorca
The collection of the Fryderyk Chopin and George Sand Museum in Valldemossa


Fryderyk Chopin and George Sand.

Fryderyk Chopin and George Sand met on November 5, 1836 in Paris, in the salon of countess Maria D'Agoult and Franz Liszt. Chopin was 26, already enjoying the fame of a composer and virtuoso, while Aurora Dupin, Baroness Dudevant, writing under the pen name of George Sand, six years older than Chopin, was a known writer who stood out with her peculiar manner and dress. Their romantic relationship soon began, lasting nearly 10 years.

The French novelist had two children - thirteen year old Maurice and nine year old Solange. She was divorced from Casimir Dudevant. In 1838 she decided to spend the winter in a more gentle climate, since her son suffered from rheumatism. She invited Chopin on the trip, hoping that the southern climate would improve the artist's health. One can presume that the lovers also sought out a quiet place to distance themselves from the Paris environment and quietly surrender to their creative work.

The trip to Majorca

They started out on the trip separately. George Sand left Paris on October 18th. She left with the children and the maid Amelia, via Melun, Chalon-sur-Saône, Lyon, Avignon and Nîmes. The composer left on October 27th, later accompanied by Spanish minister Juan Mendizábal, who was headed for Madrid, meeting in Perpignan near the French-Spanish border, on October 31st. After arriving in Perpignan, the two artists left by ship for Barcelona the next day on the "Le Phénicien" from Port-Vendres. They spent five days in Barcelona at the hotel "Cuatro naciones", filling their time visiting the city, including the Santa Maria del Mar Cathedral, as well as the ruins of the House of the Inquisition. On November 7th they left on the "El Mallorquin", for Palma de Mallorca, arriving on November 8th at 11:30.

The first stay in Palma (November 8-14, 1838)

In Palma, the travelers immediately ran into problems in finding a flat. Relying on information from friends in Paris, alluding to the friendliness of Majorcan residents, reality turned out to be completely different. They only managed to find two very uncomfortable rooms in the tavern on Calle de la Marina. "The flat was comprised of four completely bare walls, without doors or windows - as described by George Sand in the Un hiver a Majorque. Most of the bourgeois homes didn't possess window panes; when someone felt like paying for such a luxury, highly advisable in the winter, he had to order frames. When moving, tenants (and hardly anyone ever moved) took the windows, locks and even hinges with them" (Sand 2006, p. 46).

While staying in Palma they visited the cathedral, which George Sand characterized like this: A cathedral "rising on the coastline of the sea makes a huge impression [...], but the only thing worthy of respect is the portal from the middle-ages, defined by Laurens as the most beautiful example of Gothic art. [...] The cathedral's interior is one of the most austere and gloomy" (Sand 2006, p. 71).

Despite the unfavorable circumstances, Chopin wrote to his friend Julian Fontana on November 15, 1838, "'the sky is like turquoise, the sea azure, the mountains like emeralds, the air like in heaven. Sunny during the day, it's hot and everyone dresses lightly; at night guitars and singing can be heard at all hours" (Sydow 1955, vol. 1, p. 327). 

The difficult accommodations made worse by the noise of sellers who worked nearby, ultimately forced the artists to seek another place. So they accepted an offer to rent a furnished villa "Son Vent" (House of the Wind) in Establiments, some four kilometers from Palma. In a letter dated November 14, 1938, George Sand wrote to Charlotta Marliana: "I'm writing to you in a rush. I'm leaving the city and moving to a nice, furnished house with a garden, beautifully situated in the village." (Lubin 1968, p. 521-522).

At "Son Vent" in Establiments (November 15 - December 9, 1838)

On November 15 1838, George Sand and Fryderyk Chopin rented the picturesque villa "Son Vent" at the foot of the mountains, belonging to the affluent burgher named Gomez.

On November 21, 1838, Chopin, whose piano was lost during the trip to Majorca, wrote to Camille Pleyel: "I dream about music, but I'm not playing - because there are no pianos here ... it's a wild country in this regard." (Sydow 1955, vol. 1, p. 329).

The peaceful life in "Son Vent" lasted three weeks, until the first days of December, which brought sudden torrential rains and the walls became wet. The villa became cold and damp. "All the flowers fell off the trees, and the rain leaked into our poorly closed rooms" - wrote George Sand in Un hiver a Majorque (Sand 2006, p. 57).

Chopin's health worsened by the day and doctors had to be called in. In a letter to Julian Fontana from 3 XII 1938, he wrote: "I became sick as a dog over the last two weeks, I caught a cold despite the 18 degree temperature, the roses, oranges, palms and fig trees" (Sydow 1955, vol. 1, p. 330). Meanwhile Gomez, the owner of "Son Vent", incited by neighboring residents fearing an infectious disease, forced Chopin and his companion to leave the villa. So on December 9th, the artists headed back to Palma.

The second stay in Palma (December 10-14, 1838)

In Palma, Chopin and George Sand took advantage of the invitation of Pierre Hoppolite Flury, the French consul, extremely friendly to his compatriots, and they stayed in his home Illeta d'en Moragues, which no longer stands. They soon found out about another accommodation: a secretive couple longing to leave the island rented them two cells in the Carthusian Monastery in Valldemossa for a small sum.

At the Carthusian Monastery in Valldemossa (December 15 1838 - February 11, 1839)

On December 15, 1838, Chopin, George Sand, her children and maid Amelia, left for Valldemossa. They lived in the cells of a monastery vacated by the Carthusians. There were three rooms in each cell, described by George sand in Un hiver a Majorque, as "spacious, elegantly vaulted and well ventilated, owing to the azure rose windows, in various, nice shapes. They were separated from the monastery by a dark corridor, closed off by huge oak doors. [...] On the south side, a set of chambers extended to a garden, equivalent in size to the entire cell, separated from adjacent ones by a ten foot wall and adjacent to a solidly built terrace overlooking a small orange grove situated at the ledge of a hill. Grapevines, almond trees and palms grew on the terrace below [...]" (Sand 2006, p. 147).

The basic furnishings of the cell, from which a Gothic chair brought to them by a sacristan, has survived, complemented by a poor quality Majorcan piano. During his stay in the monastery, Chopin composed one of his most famous works. The Playel piano ordered in Paris only reached him three weeks before leaving Majorca.

The harsh winter at the turn of 1839 and 1939 with fog, storms and cold temperatures forced both the artists to remain inside the vacated, peculiar monastery, that resounded with the howl of freezing wind in the dismal hallways. This created an unusual and gloomy atmosphere, mellowed by the occasional sunny days, which permitted the artists to admire the impressive Valldemossa countryside. Chopin wasn't at all indifferent to the beautiful and austere landscape of Valldemossa, nor the special atmosphere of the monastery. Nevertheless, in addition to the fatigue and the declining state of health, made worse by the poor living conditions, a sense of loneliness set in, associated in part by the lack of contact with Majorcans, but also by the large contrast between the safe worldly environment he led in Paris, and the harsh living conditions in Valldemossa. He wrote about this in a letter to Julian Fontana on 28 XII 1838: "between the rocks and the ocean, a huge, vacated Carthusian monastery, where in a single cell [...] you can find me with uncut hair, without white gloves, pale as usual. The cell has the shape of a tall tomb, enormous vaulting, dusty, small windows. In front of the window oranges, palms and cypress trees grow; my trestle-bed opposite the window [...] Bach, my scribbles and not my papers ... quiet ... you can shout ... it's still quiet. In a nutshell, I'm writing to you from this strange place" (Sydow 1955, vol. 1, p. 332).

The circumstances surrounding the stay in Majorca surely had a great impact on the works that Chopin composed there. Despite that love that George Sand bestowed upon him, and despite the exotic beauty of Majorca, Chopin suffered long periods of doubt and depression, associated with illness and its untreatable characterization, that he was conscious of. The lack of news from Poland, fear about his family and friends, longing for Poland, considering especially that it was Christmas season, only worsened his state of mind. The dislike of Majorcans to the romantic, non-practicing lovers living in the monastery made this worse. Majorcans treated Chopin with particular animosity, fearing his illness like the plague. The grim and severe atmosphere of the vacated monastery affected his deeply romantic soul: everything found an expression in his compositions.

Chopin's worsening illness, as well as the composer's depressive state of mind, hastened the decision to leave the monastery. On February 11, 1839 Chopin, George Sand and the children left Valldemossa.

The return to France

On February 14, 1839, after a two-day stay in Palma, the two artists left on a trip back to France. They took the "El Mallorquin" to Barcelona, from there, on February 22, on the French steamer "Le Phénicien" to Marseille. Their stay in this city lasted from February 24 until May 23 (except for the period from May 3-18, during which they took an excursion with the children to Genoa). They first stopped for two days at Doctor François Cauvière's, at rue de Rome 21, then at the "La Darse" hotel on rue de la Darse, owned by Joseph Marliani. On April 1 they stayed at the "Beauvau" Hotel at rue Beauvau 4. Chopin continued to feel out of sorts. According to George Sand, though, he bore the trip in stride. In Marseilles he was cared for by a physician, Francois Cauvière. On May 23 they left Marseilles by ship to Arles, from there by coach via Pont-Saint-Esprit, Saint-Etienne, Montbrison, Clermont and Aubusson to Nohant, arriving on June 1st.

Works Chopin composed on Majorca

It's difficult to put together a complete and final list of compositions that Chopin wrote while on Majorca, since he started many of them before leaving for the island, some he composed during his stay there, and others he began there, but finished them later. In the period between October 1838 and February 1839, despite his health problems, Chopin wrote the Preludes op.28, at least most of them, and undoubtedly no. 2 in A-minor, no. 10 in C-sharp minor, no. 21 B flat major, no. 1 in C-major, no. 4 in E-minor and no. 15 in D-flat major. Furthermore, other works that Chopin wrote out of his stay on Majorca include: Polonaise in C-minor, op. 40, Muzurka in E-minor, op. 41 no. 2, Scherzo in C-sharp minor, op. 39 (drafts), Nocturne in G-minor, op. 37, no. 1 (started in Paris), Tarantella op. 43 (draft), Sonata in B flat minor, op. 35 (besides the funeral march composed earlier), the Ballade in F-major, op. 38 (started in 1836), the Polonaise in A-major, op. 40, no. 1 (corrections).

The monastery in Valldemossa is a place where Chopin lived, became sick, loved, worked; he was intoxicated by its natural beauty, a place in which a special trace of him remains to the present.


Bożena Schmid - Adamczyk

Curator of the Fryderyk Chopin and George Sand Museum in Valldemossa

English translation: Philip Stoeckle


The collection of the Fryderyk Chopin and George Sand Museum in Valldemossa



Bożena Adamczyk[Schmid], Anàlisi critica dels manuscrits, vol. I Manuscritos Autògrafos Musicales. Comentarios. Valldemossa. Transl into Spanish and Catelonian Rosa Capllonch Ferra. Vol. II Manuscritos Autògrafos Musicales. Valldemossa. Edicion Facsimil editada por el Conservatori Superior de Musica de illes Balears. Mallorca 2003. 

B. Adamczyk[Schmid], Chopin à Valldemossa. Le Musée de la cellule n°2, in: "Sur les traces de Frédéric Chopin" , Paris 1984, {Adamczyk 1984}

B. Adamczyk[Schmid], Le Fond Chopin de la Chartreuse de Valldemossa et son importance pour la connaissance du musicien, Strasbourg 1979 (doctoral thesis), {Adamczyk 1979}

B. Adamczyk[Schmid], Katalog zbiorów Muzeum Fryderyka Chopina i George Sand w celi nr 2 klasztoru kartuzów w Valdemosie, "Rocznik Chopinowski" 18, Warsaw 1986, {Adamczyk 1986}

B. Adamczyk-Schmid, Les variantes du texte de Frédéric Chopin dans les manuscrits musicaux de la collection d'Anne-Marie Boutroux de Ferrà's Collection in Valldemossa, in: "Chopin Studies" 3, The International Musicological Symposium "Chopin and Romanticism" Warsaw, 17-23 October 1986, Warsaw 1990, {Adamczyk-Schmid 1990}

B. Adamczyk-Schmid, H. Wróblewska-Straus, Podróż romantyczna Fryderyka Chopina i George Sand na Majorkę, exhibit catalogue 1990, Warsaw 1990, {Adamczyk-Schmid, Wróblewska-Straus}

G. Lubin (opr.), George Sand. Correspondance, Paris 1968, vol.. 4, {Lubin 1968

I. Poniatowska, "Six chants polonais" Franciszka Liszta, in: idem, W kręgu recepcji i rezonansu muzyki. Szkice chopinowskie, Warsaw 2008, p. 41-58, {Poniatowska 2008}

G. Sand, Un hiver à Majorque, Palma, Illes Balears 1968 (original edition Paris 1842). {Sand 1968}

B. Schmid-Adamczyk, Présentation du ‘Grand duo de Robert Le Diable' composé par F. Chopin et A. Franchomme pour le piano à quatre mains op.15 à partir des sources et particulièrement d'après l'édition originale deMaurice Schlesinger qui se trouve dans la collection du musée F. Chopin et G. Sand à Valldemossa, in: Chopin and his Work in the context of Culture, vol. 1, ed. Irena Poniatowska, Kraków 2003, {Schmid-Adamczyk 2003}

B. Schmid-Adamczyk, Two Inedited Works from Frederic Chopin and George Sand's Museum in Valldemossa. A portrait of Frederic Chopin by T. Kwiatkowski. A manuscript score by Frederic Chopin, in: "Rocznik Chopinowski". Warsaw 1984, vol.16. 

B. E. Sydow (study), Korespondencja Fryderyka Chopina, vol. 1-2, Warsaw 1955, {Sydow 1955}




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