Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart (1751 – 1829)
Mozart’s older sister, child prodigy, obedient daughter
Flegel, Spitzbub, Bimberl and Hanswurst – this is how Nannerl called her little brother Wolferl in her letters. He called her Canaglie, Zizibe. She was his queen whom he admonished not to cry at the slightest provocation, and he sent his carisssima sorella kisses on her wonderful horse’s face. Such was the forthright but loving tone in the family.
Nannerl was eleven, her little brother six, when their father took them round Europe as child prodigies. He also taught them mathematics, Italian, French and English. But did they also learn to be independent? Probably not.
Leopold Mozart was proud of his daughter’s talent, but as Wolferl was even more talented he devoted most of his attention to his son. Nannerl also wrote compositions, but her father showed no interest in them.
A child prodigy has a short shelf life. By the time she was sixteen, Nannerl had passed her sell-by date. The mother and daughter remained in Salzburg and Nannerl was taught housekeeping, while father Leopold and son Wolferl continued to give concerts throughout Europe.
After her mother’s death, Nannerl kept the house for her father. When she was thirty-three, her father arranged a marriage of convenience with a two-time widow with five children. The marriage contract contained a Premium virginitatis clause, according to which Nannerl would receive a dower for her virginity. Wolfgang gave her a piece of advice for her marriage: If your husband gives you dirty looks that you don’t believe you deserve, just remember that’s how men are and say to yourself he can have his way during the day, but I have mine at night.
Nannerl had three children, but only one survived to adult age.
After her husband’s death, she earned a living giving piano lessons and worked on the publication of her brother’s collected works. A publisher wanted to help Nannerl, by this time almost blind and completely impoverished, but she refused his financial aid and gave the money to her nephews.