Portrait of Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler

The most famous portrait of Beethoven has coloured our view of his personality and appearance unlike any other. It has thus added to the "myth" which has grown up around the composer. Stieler's idealized and heroized depiction of the composer has also captured Beethoven's creative genius. It is therefore not surprising that this portrait still most often serves as the basis for reproductions of the composer (even for Andy Warhol). One might suppose that the idealized depiction was the result of alienation and even possibly embarrassment, as the painter was not able to reach the composer. But in fact the opposite is true. From Beethoven's conversation books we know that Stieler was permitted four sittings between February and April 1820. This "concession" - Beethoven considered such sittings to be a kind of penance - was not only due to Stieler's artistic ability but also to Franz and Antonie Brentano, who commissioned the portrait. Beethoven was happy to grant them this concession as he had been close to them since 1809 and once referred to them as his "best friends in the world".

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