Beethoven Frieze: "The Hostile Powers" (Panel 6, short wall)

Gustav Klimt1901


Vienna, Austria

The frieze takes its theme from Richard Wagner’s interpretation of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and depicts humankind’s search for happiness. In the scene on the narrow wall, humanity must face the dangers and temptations of the “Hostile Forces.” The giant Typhoeus, a hybrid monster with shaggy fur, blue wings, and a snake-like body, extends across almost the entire wall, fixing the viewer with mother-of-pearl eyes. Slightly further to the right cowers the emaciated female figure of “Gnawing Grief.” At top right of the narrow wall, we see the head of a floating genie. In Klimt’s narrative, this stands for humankind’s wishes and desires overcoming the “Hostile Forces.”


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