Aqua Tofana: Why historic experts are convinced she murdered Mozart
The death of the world’s greatest composer has been shrouded by mysterious circumstances and innumerable causes. Many researchers have hypothesized the cause of Mozart’s death. Claims range from rheumatic fever, to syphilis, to kidney failure.
Yet, the possibility of murder has never been ruled out. As Mozart felt his life was reaching its end, he himself believed poison was to blame. Not just any poison but Europe’s most mysterious killer: Aqua Tofana.
At the time of his death in 1791, Mozart was composing a requiem which was never to be completed. Reports stated Mozart became certain that this requiem was to be intended for his own death.
In fact, one record detailed Mozart stating: “I feel definitely that I will not last much longer; I am sure that I have been poisoned. I cannot rid myself of this idea . . . Someone has given me acqua tofana and calculated the precise time of my death.”
What is Aqua Tofana?
Very little is actually known about this old, liquid poison. Aqua Tofana was colorless, tasteless, and emitted no odor. It could easily be blended into wine without suspicion, and its ingredients included arsenic, lead, and possibly belladonna – although the exact measurements of each ingredient remain unknown.
Additionally, the poison didn’t kill the victim instantly. The death would be slow and even resemble a natural cause of death. It would simply seem as if the victim had fallen ill to some fateful disease. Depending on the dosage, the poison could take days, weeks, or even months before finally ending the victim’s life.
The symptoms would progressively worsen. The victim would at first begin to feel cold-like symptoms. As time passed and more doses were served, the victim would suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, and a painful burning in their digestive system. The fourth and final dose would kill the victim.
With this slow death, the murderer could avoid possible police investigation.
The origin of Aqua Tofana
The history of Aqua Tofana has many variations. However, it’s certain that the deadly poison was created in the 17th century in Palermo, Italy, and distributed by Giuliana Tofana.
Giuliana Tofana sold the poison to women who wished to kill their abusive husbands. At the time, women didn’t have the right to divorce their husbands or gain any assistance if they were being abused. With limited options, some women resorted to murder in order to gain their freedom.
Aqua Tofana was even sold in public as cosmetic products or religious devotional objects. In order to remain undiscovered by authorities, the poison was named Manna di San Nicola. The vial itself was labeled with an image of St. Nicholas. The deadly substance was purportedly responsible for over 600 deaths.
Some reports claimed Giuliana Tofana was arrested & executed in 1659 – her grisly execution done by drawing & quartering. However, contradictory reports claimed she was never convicted at all. Giuliana Tofana and her titular poison continue to be a mystery to historians.
The death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
On September 6th 1791, during the premiere of his opera La clemenza di Tito, Mozart fell extremely ill. By November of that year, he had become completely bedridden. The famous composer was suffering from unbearable pain, swelling, and vomiting.
Confined to his bed while his health deteriorated, Mozart continued writing his final requiem piece. He eventually succumbed to his illness and died on December 5th, 1791.
Although no official diagnosis was given to the musician, he was certain foul play was at hand. Many suspected his colleague, Antonio Salieri, was Mozart’s murderer. His involvement was ultimately ruled out by authorities because Mozart’s symptoms were not those of usual poisoning. Still, Salieri became ostracized by society due to the widespread rumors.
Although Mozart’s cause of death may never be truly known, the genius composer died believing to be poisoned with Aqua Tofana. Whether that was the truth or he was simply delirious due to his illness remains a mystery.