“Madame Hensel was an incomparable musician, an excellent pianist, a mentally superior woman; she was small, almost slight, but the fiery look from deep eyes betrayed unusual energy. As a composer she was of rare talent …”
“May here be summarized the impression of the whole personality of Fanny Hensel: She was small in stature and had – an inheritance from Moses Mendelssohn – a crooked shoulder, but this was little to be seen. The most beautiful thing about her were her large, dark, very expressive eyes, which did not show her nearsightedness. The nose and mouth were quite strong, she had beautiful white teeth. Her hand showed the training she had received from playing the piano. She was quick and decisive in her movements, her face was very lively, all moods were faithfully reflected on it; pretense was impossible for her. (…) She breathed in fresh air deeply and fully and declared this to be one of the greatest pleasures. Equally intense, however, was her anger at everything ugly, her rage at everything bad. Against boring, vain and hollow people she was very intolerant, and had certain betes noires against whom she could not at all master her antipathy. Her face would soon take on an expression of such deep unhappiness that she would often put those around her into the greatest merriment when the cause was so out of proportion to the mood evoked in her. When this had passed, she herself laughed about it and was just as incapable of restraining herself the next time.”
Sebastian Hensel, Die Familie Mendelssohn II, Berlin 1908, p. 446
Felix comments on Wilhelm Hensel’s portrait drawing from 1829:
“Fanny’s large portrait is also beautiful, but I do not like it. I see how splendidly it is drawn, how eloquently similar it is; but in the position, clothing, gaze, in the whole sybillic prophethood or rapturous enthusiasm, my Cantor is not met. There the enthusiasm is not so on top, more inside…. Don’t take this amiss, court painter; but I have known my sister longer than you, have carried her in my arms as a child (exaggeration)…”
Sebastian Hensel, The Mendelssohn Family I, Berlin 1908, p. 330)
The Hensel family celebrated Christmas with a large circle of family and friends, including Wilhelm Hensel’s students who lived in the house; theater sketches were played, grandiose disguises were staged, and gift decorations were set up.
Fanny to Felix: “23.Dec 1834. Since I send you nothing but my quartet, (lost, author’s note), I did not want to send it without a letter, and since I cannot write anything sensible before Christmas, I leave it until after Christmas.
25th. That’s where it really stayed the day before yesterday. We had one of the funniest Christmases, and only regretted that you were not there; based on my knowledge of your character, I believe you would have lain under the table laughing.”
M. Citron (1987), p. 480
In Berlin’s Trinity Cemetery, the composer Fanny Caecilie Hensel, née Mendelssohn Bartholdy lies beneath a heavy red granite stone, with a ditty chiseled on it soaring up to the high A into the kingdom of heaven, which may well have been ordered by her husband, who now also lies there and chose for himself the same light-colored grave cross as his brother. Thus Fanny, just as in life, is beautifully framed by her two husbands, or, as she once remarked in her own austere way, ‘like the donkey between two bundles of hay.'”
Eleonore Büning, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 7.6.1997