Beethoven monuments of the 19th and 20th century

Sublime, Quaint or Modern

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1830 - 1845

The first Beethoven monument

Briefly after the composer's death, the cities of Bonn and Vienna felt the desire to put up a monument for Beethoven. As it was rather unusual to erect a monument in honour of an artist who had just died, the memorial should be fairly modern.

As a result, Vienna artist Friedrich von Amerling (1803-1887) and sculptor Ernst Julius Hähnel (1811-1891) from Dresden chose to depict Beethoven in contemporary clothing in their drafts. To express the composer's creative achievements, both artists portrayed Beethoven while composing and holding a writing feather in his right hand.

Amerling-Zeichnung
Draft for a Beethoven monument by Friedrich von Amerling (1840s)

While it would take another 40 years until a Beethoven monument was finally erected in Vienna, the city of Bonn had a monument put up already in 1845.The ceremonial unveiling of the memorial was preceded by a long and arduous process of creation characterised by many disputes among the members of the monument committee. The involved musicians, historians and artists had fairly different opinions about how a monument for Beethoven should look like.

Hähnel-Denkmal von rechts

Hähnel-Denkmal en face
Ernst Julius Hähnel´s Beethoven monument on the Münsterplatz in Bonn (1845)

Hähnel-Denkmal von links

After many tries, Julius Hähnel was finally able to convince the Bonn committee in favour of his concept which included a Beethoven statue on a high pedestal adorned with allegorical reliefs. After Franz Liszt eased the project's financial problems through a generous contribution, the monument could finally be completed. Its unveiling was celebrated with a several day long music festival which founded the tradition of the still existing Beethoven festivals in Bonn.

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