Beethoven with the manuscript of the Missa solemnis (1820) by Joseph Karl StielerBeethoven-House Bonn
The myth of Beethoven
Most people imagine Ludwig van Beethoven to be like this picture of Joseph Karl Stieler.
Artist and revolutionary
With his eyes Beethoven looks unerringly towards new horizons, in his hands he holds the notes to his "Missa Solemnis". The painting shows Beethoven seven years before his death, at the age of 49.
The head is slightly lowered; the lips tightly closed; the grey, curly hairs surround the head like a lion's mane.
In the practice of his art
Unlike all other contemporary paintings, the painter shows how Beethoven works on his art.
In order for every detail to fit, Beethoven had to sit model four times - and Beethoven is said to have found sitting still very difficult.
Beethoven holds a pencil in his hand and seems to be composing on the credo of his "Missa solemnis".
A second technique is special: the painter shows Beethoven in a forest landscape. A reference to Beethoven's love of nature, which he composed in his 6th symphony ("Pastorale").
Joseph Karl Stieler's painting shaped the ideas that people still have about Beethoven today.
The painting was commissioned by Franz and Antonie Brentano, with whom Beethoven had been friends since about 1810. Today it hangs in the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn.