April 14th 1759: Handel dies
On this day in 1759, the German composer George Frederic Handel died aged 74. Famous for his Baroque pieces, Handel was born in Germany in 1685 but moved to Britain later in life. He gained a reputation there for his Italian operas, and some of his works were performed for Queen Anne and her successors on the British throne. Handel enjoyed royal patronage, and his music is regularly played at royal coronations even to this day. However he is perhaps best known for his biblical choral masterpiece: Messiah. Handel died in 1759, and was honoured with a state funeral and burial in Westminster Abbey. Alongside his grave is a monument, sculpted by Louis Francois Roubiliac, which was unveiled in 1762 and features a statue of Handel which supposedly has the exact likeness of his death mask.
We cannot know his legendary head with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso is still suffused with brilliance from inside, like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,
gleams in all its power. Otherwise the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could a smile run through the placid hips and thighs to that dark center where procreation flared.
Otherwise this stone would seem defaced beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:
would not, from all the borders of itself, burst like a star: for here there is no place that does not see you. You must change your life.
Archaic Torso of Apollo by Rainer Maria Rilke
Apollo Crowning Himself, 1781, Antonio Canova. J. Paul Getty Museum.