Was composer Handel a compulsive eater?

This music video is called G.F. HANDEL – Concerto Grosso Op. 6, nº 6 in G minor HWV 324 -ASMIF-Marriner.

From British daily The Independent:

The madness of George Frideric Handel

The composer was notorious for his love of food. But new research suggests his greed was the consequence of a pathological condition

By Jeremy Laurance

Thursday, 2 April 2009

The invitation that Handel offered to his friend Joseph Goupy as the pair walked together to the composer’s house in Brook Street, Mayfair, was double-edged. “You are welcome to dine with me,” he wrote, “but only plain food is available”.

Handel depicted as The Charming Brute

It is not recorded what was served, but, having eaten, Handel excused himself from the dinner table, leaving Goupy alone. Time passed and Goupy wondered what had happened to his host. He went to look for him and, upon opening the door to the next room, glimpsed Handel through the window, standing in the back parlour stuffing himself with “such delicacies as he had lamented his inability to afford his friend”.

Goupy, a painter and set-designer whose patron was Frederick, Prince of Wales, was not pleased. He left in a fury and set to work with his chalks to wreak his revenge. The result was perhaps the most notorious caricature of Handel, entitled The Charming Brute, which showed the composer of the Messiah with a pig’s snout seated at the organ on a barrel of wine, a brace of fowl hanging from the pipes and further supplies stacked behind him. The picture, unsurprisingly, ended their friendship.

David Hunter, a Handel specialist and curator at the Fine Arts Library of the University of Texas in Houston, is more sympathetic. George Frideric Handel, celebrated not only for his glorious Baroque music but also as an interpreter of human character, was, he says, not a moral reprobate but the victim of a pathological condition – a compulsion to eat. That in turn resulted in chronic lead poisoning – chiefly from the quantity of wine he imbibed – which influenced the course of his musical development.

A chance discovery in a ledger at the Bank of England suggests the composer Handel may have been a smart financial operator: here.

Handel’s Messiah: here.

3 thoughts on “Was composer Handel a compulsive eater?

  1. Pingback: Hitler’s crackdown on Jewish composers | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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  3. Pingback: Classical music, robbery, child’s tears | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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