Beethoven Through the Eyes of the Painter

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In this article, I will share with you the dialogues between the two during the drawing of the famous portrait, which is familiar to everyone who is not related to classical music.

For this, I used the speech notebooks that Beethoven used to communicate. I would like to briefly introduce the speaking notebooks:

Peter, son of German publisher Nikolaus Simrock (b. 1816), who arrived in Vienna in September 1751, tells biographer AW Thayer about his relationship with Beethoven. Peter informs Thayer: “He can understand me easily if I speak in his left ear, but I need to write down private or personal matters that I need to whisper”. By 1818, the composer's hearing loss had progressed considerably and he had to carry a notebook and pen with him. In order for his relatives not to shout in public, the composer would give them the notebook, and if the subject was not private, he would reply by speaking, otherwise by writing himself. Since it is obvious that what is written in the notebook can be seen by all his friends, it has been observed that special subjects are sometimes written in French or Italian by the composer. 139 of these notebooks have survived to the present day.

Now let's continue with a real example over these notebooks:

SCHINDLER [written in French] Madame Countess? // Was he rich? // It's beautiful even now! Mr. Gallenberg // Was he long married to Mr. Gallenberg?

BEETHOVEN [Written in French] Born Guicciardi // She was married to him before he went to Italy and he called me in tears but I turned him down.

* Beethoven's text is circled in red.
* Notebook 22, January 30 – February 6, 1823. [46. back of page]

After explaining the notebooks and the way of communication with examples, you can read the dialogues between the painter Stieler and Beethoven during the drawing of the famous portrait in chronological order.


STIELER [Feb 12]: Sit down as if writing please, let's try the pose // Hold your pose when I point.

Notebook 7, January 27 – February 22, 1820
front of page


STIELER [21 February]: The painting needs to dry. I'll write to you when it's dry, if you're available, you can spare another hour. // Your portrait will be my masterpiece // Prices 69 fl. It ranges from 250 to XNUMX florins.

Notebook 7, January 27 – February 22, 1820
back of page


STIELER [March 15]: Red muscat // Did you write to Frankfurt that I started your portrait? // Kügelgen is very talented // You should not tell anyone about the plan for your portrait. I say that I draw for myself // Today was very productive, I was able to examine you in great detail // I will stay here forever // Vienna is the leading city

Notebook number 9, 11 – 19 March 1820
front of page


STIELER [March 27]: It's going to be too long for you. The work that needs to be done today will continue another day // Fifteen minutes if it's not too long for you // I ask you to come tomorrow, the paints will be dry the next day

Notebook number 10, 20 March – 1 April 1820
back of page


STIELER [April 10]: What tonality is your hymn (Messe) in? I want to embroider on the cover (can be seen on the cover of the paper Beethoven is holding in the picture) “Messe in D”

BEETHOVEN : Missa solemnis in D

Notebook number 11, 1 – 14 April 1820
front of page


STIELER: Fifteen minutes // I must send it to the Brentanos after the exhibition // Thank you a thousand times for your patience.

Notebook number 11, 1 – 14 April 1820
back of page


2 Review

  1. As a painter, I was tremendously impressed. I would love to be in Stieler's shoes. I want to print these interesting speeches under the portrait and hang them in my workshop, but I couldn't copy them, can you help?

    • Ayşegül Hanım, our content is protected against copying. Unfortunately, the Internet is a disrespectful environment. I sent article content correspondence to the e-mail address you entered for comment. Hello

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