Netflix places a statue of Mozart’s sister to celebrate history’s overshadowed women

28 September 2020, 12:15 | Updated: 28 September 2020, 13:35

Netflix marks film on history’s overshadowed women with statue of Mozart’s sister
Netflix marks film on history’s overshadowed women with statue of Mozart’s sister. Picture: Netflix

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

In celebration of its new movie on Sherlock’s sister, Netflix is shining a spotlight on iconic female figures whose names were left out of the history books. That includes Mozart’s sister, Maria.

Mozart’s sister, Maria Anna, has finally got her own statue.

It’s all part of a Netflix campaign to celebrate history’s real-life sisters whose prestigious achievements have been overshadowed by those of their famous brothers, inspired by Enola Holmes, the new film on Sherlock’s sister.

Maria Anna Mozart, the sister of Wolfgang Amadeus and a gifted harpsichord and fortepiano player, now stands proud next to her composer brother in Parade Gardens, in Bath, Somerset.

Netflix said in a tweet: “When playing alongside Wolfgang as a child prodigy, Maria would often receive top billing but as she grew older, cultural pressures made it impossible for her to continue her career.”

Known affectionately to her family as ‘Nannerl’, Maria Anna cut her teeth touring 18th-century Europe with her brother and their father, Leopold Mozart. She was lauded as one of the most skilful players in Europe – and even, playwright Sylvia Milo argues, the more talented sibling.

But when she reached the age at which women were expected to marry, her father Leopold stopped taking her on tour. Maria Anna carried on composing, but no longer had the platform of her younger brother.

Read more: Was Mozart’s sister actually the most talented musician in the family? >

Another classical music figure stands out among the five new statues: musician Frances Dickens, a gifted pianist and singer who studied at the Royal Academy of Music under a former pupil of Beethoven.

Now, Dickens stands alongside her brother Charles in Portsmouth’s Guildhall Square.

“Frances was so gifted,” Netflix says, “the Dickens family prioritised her education over Charles’ as they could only afford school fees for one child.”

Fanny, as she was known to family, received a prize in her second year at the Academy for ‘good conduct and improvement in music’ and a second prize in piano. In 1835 she sang at a concert which starred Henry Burnett, who had also studied at the Academy.

They married and Fanny became a mother, after which her music career took a nosedive.

Read more: 21 of the greatest women composers in classical music >

Other statues celebrating poet Thomas Hardy’s sister Mary, whose appointment to Headmistress of Piddlehinton village School was a significant achievement for a woman of her time, and Princess Helena Victoria, sister of King Edward VII and a founding member of the British Red Cross, can be spotted in cities across the country.