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.