BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Saturday, July 8, 1820 (approximately)

Conversation Book 15, 1v through 3r

Beethoven is visited in Mödling by sculptor Anton Dietrich (1799-1872), who is on an outing to the countryside. Dietrich had made a small bust of Beethoven earlier in 1820, which was shown in the Vienna Art Exhibition. Today, that bust is found in the History Museum of Vienna. Dietrich had planned to visit the day before, but Beethoven forgot that he was coming and put him off until today. [Anderson letter 1031]

Dietrich says that for the next Vienna Art Exhibition he wants to sculpt Beethoven again, but this time life-size. He makes the interesting observation that Beethoven’s head looks good from the front because it is Haydn on one side and Mozart on the other. Dietrich notes that there is demand for copies of the bust, but some people are willing to pay only 10 or 12 florins for a week’s work. [Recall that Beethoven had just sold the rights to the piano sonata op.109, which would take him months to write, for only 30 florins.] A countess (possibly Countess Marie Erdödy?) has expressed interest in a copy of the bust in marble, but her ill health prevents her commissioning one at the moment.

Dietrich mentions that Leopold Kiesling (1770-1827, almost exactly mirroring Beethoven’s lifetime), the Hapsburg Court Sculptor, is planning to sculpt a massive 18-foot bust of Emperor Franz I.

Dietrich apologizes for his awkwardness, and says he is happy to have found Beethoven healthy. Beethoven suggests that he visit the scenic valley of Brühl near Mödling, and the sculptor says he will do so for a while later.

Dietrich’s 1820 Bust of Beethoven:

Dietrich's 1820 bust of Beethoven (History Museum of Vienna) Photo by Anita Pravits

Dietrich’s 1820 bust of Beethoven (History Museum of Vienna) Photo by Anita Pravits