THE celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of composer Frederic Chopin have been overshadowed here in Majorca by a court ruling yesterday that the cell, which tens of thousands of tourists from all over the world have visited in Valldemossa under the impression that it was the one he spent the winter of 1838 living in, is the wrong cell.
Chopin lived in a cell at the cartuja Carthusian monastery in Valldemossa with his lover, the French author and feminist Amandine Aurore Lucille Dupin, the Baroness Dudevant, better known by her pseudonym, George Sand, and children from December 15, 1838 until February 11, 1939. It was her experiences on the island that George Sand recounted in her book A Winter in Majorca.
However, the cells in the monastery, which has also been visited by scores of world leaders and international VIPs, are privately owned and the family which owns cell number 4 (which was actually cell number 3 in Chopin's day) has been at logger heads with the owners of cell number two since the 1930's because, as the Palma judge ruled yesterday, it was cell number 4 in which Chopin spent the winter, not number two.
What is more, Chopin never played the piano which is on show in cell number 2.
In fact, according to the court ruling, the simple Majorca piano, as it is marketed, was made in the middle of the 19th century, after Chopin spent the winter on the island.
Handing down the sentence, the judge accused the company Ferra Capllonch, the owners of cell number two, of fraudulent publicity and advertising by claiming that Chopin lived in their cell and played the piano on show inside.
In fact, it is widely documented that he had his Pleyel piano shipped over from France and that it was held by Majorcan customs officials for over two weeks until Chopin paid 300 francs to have it released. From then on Chopin was able to use the long-awaited instrument for almost five weeks, time enough to complete some works: some Preludes, Op. 28; a revision of the Ballade No. 2, Op. 38; two Polonaises, Op. 40; the Scherzo No. 3, Op. 39; the Mazurka in E minor from Op. 41; and he probably revisited his Sonata No. 2, Op. 35. The winter in Majorca is still considered one of the most productive periods in Chopin's life.
But, not only does the Capllonch company have to destroy and remove all existing publicity, it has also been ordered to publish a correction in the media, inform all the relevant institutions and associations and also remove the piano.
The judge primarily based her ruling on various letters written by the previous occupant of the cell, Ignacio Duran, letters written by George Sand and two bank transactions which demonstrate that Sand paid the rent for cell number 3.
In one of Duran's letters to his banker, he asked that the owners of cell number 3 be located, who happened to be a priest at San Nicholas Church in Palma while in another letter Duran states that the furniture he had left in the cell could be bought by the new occupant a French woman.
In one of Sand's letters to a countess, she described her accommodation of consisting of three rooms and a garden full of lemons, again a description which matches cell number four, not two.
With regards to statements from the time, the judge was also presented with a letter written by a man who wrote to the Spanish translator of A Winter in Majorca, pointing out that Chopin either lived in cell number four or five.
The judge also took into account the drawings and sketches by George Sand and her son Maurice of the view from their accommodation in the monastery.
When the judge went to examine the scene earlier this month, it was clear that the views could have only been drawn from what is now cell number four.
The judge said not only has a grave consumer error been made for the past century but visitors have been confused as well.
However, the ruling may not be the end of the feud which has gone on between the two parties since the 1930's.
It is understood the Capllonch company is going to appeal.