Flute Concert with Frederick the Great in Sanssouci

Adolph Menzel1850 - 1852

Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Berlin, Germany

In the 1840s Menzel produced numerous illustrations for Franz Kugler’s ever popular History of Frederick the Great. Menzel’s intense work on the times and character of Friedrich II, who reigned from 1740 to 1786, was to bear fruit, even apart from the book illustrations which made Menzel famous. Along with the self-contained “society piece”, Die Tafelrunde, the Flute Concert may be regarded as one of the paintings where Menzel, in free and full possession of his powers as a painter, deepened and transformed his subjects in a subtly shifting mix of world history and parochial patriotism. The King of Prussia, a passionately keen flautist who also composed for the flute, is playing on the occasion of a visit from his sister, the Margravine of Bayreuth. Keeping time with his left foot, he is improvising at a high music stand which prevents any eye contact with the ensemble, so that the composition, arranged parallel to the picture plane, is divided by his figure into audience on the left and chamber ensemble on the right. Among the pronounced verticals of the composition, the extreme foreshortening of the flute is very noticeable. Menzel’s portrayal of the scene, with its attention to historical accuracy in both dress and furnishings, does not depict the instrument as simply another anecdotal detail, but rather concentrates on the musically flickering, warm candlelight of the theatrically illuminated concert room in Sanssouci, which seems to flow backwards with its own choreographed rhythm. Rather than an apotheosis of the cultivation of the arts at the court of Frederick the Great, Menzel has created an atmospheric portrayal of music-making.


  • Title: Flute Concert with Frederick the Great in Sanssouci
  • Creator: Adolph Menzel
  • Date created: 1850 - 1852
  • Physical Dimensions: w205.0 x h142.0 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Technique and material: Oil on canvas
  • Inv.-No.: A I 206
  • ISIL-No.: DE-MUS-815114
  • External link: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: Text: © Prestel Verlag / Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Photo: © b p k - Photo Agency / Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Jörg P. Anders
  • Collection: Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Artist biography: After his father’s death in 1830, Menzel became the owner of a lithographic business in Berlin, where he lived and worked most of his live. As an artist, he lacked substantial artistic education, visiting the University of Arts in Berlin for only 6 months, and was mostly self-taught. In spite of this, he became the most renowned artist in 19th-century Germany. His most important works depict various historic events connected to the life of Frederick the Great, such as the Flute Concert of Frederick the Great at Sanssouci, or other events connected to Prussia.
  • Artist Place of Death: Berlin, Germany
  • Artist Place of Birth: Breslau, Poland
  • Artist Dates: 1815-12-08/1905-02-09

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