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Ludwig van Beethoven, 1806, Fassung Lichnowsky - Ölgemälde von Isidor Neugaß

Beethoven-Haus Bonn, B 1925

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Many of the preserved portraits of Ludwig van Beethoven were created by order of the composer's friends or patrons. So was this painting, which the Berlin painter Isidor Neugaß created in 1806. There are two versions of the painting: one version originates from the possession of the Lichnowsky family and is said to have been made according to the family tradition by order of Beethoven's patron Prince Carl von Lichnowsky; the second version was made for the Hungarian aristocratic family Brunsvik, who had been close friends of Beethoven as well. The two versions differ from each other mainly in the coloring of the clothes, as well as in one little detail: in the Brunsvik version, we can see a ribbon in front of Beethoven's shirt, on which a lorgnon (reading-glasses) must hang. This ribbon (it sometimes had been interpreted as watch chain in literature) is missing on the painting from the possession of the Lichnowsky family.

Isidor Neugaß chose to depict Beethoven in a half length portrait, which, in Vienna, was very popular to do. He portrayed the composer from an idealized perception. In the background of the painting, a clouded sky can be seen. On one hand, this reminds of noticeable relations to the English art of portraying in the 18th/19th century, on the other hand, this element refers to the special emphasis on nature in the German romanticism. All in all, the Beethoven portrait by Neugaß unifies the characteristical elements of the German classical image: he does not make any use of any attributes whatsoever, but concentrates on the image itself; despite of the nature in the background, it is free from romantic interpretations, as they can frequently be found in later depictions of Beethoven.(S.B.)

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