Beethoven Frieze: "The Hostile Powers" (Panel 5, 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. To his left stand his daughters, the three Gorgons, and above them, mask-like female heads stare out of the picture, allegoricalrepresentations of Sickness, Madness, and Death. The women to the monster’s right symbolize Lasciviousness, Wantonness and Intemperance, the latter identifiable by her large belly.


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