Figure of Beethoven

After 1902
Max Klinger (German, 1857–1920)


Weight: 772 lb. (772 lb.) Height x width: 101.6 cm, 21 x 27 1/8 in. (40 x 21 x 27 1/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View





Version of the polychrome monument with stone, jasper and bronze in Leipzig Museum. Seated nude figure head bowed, hands in lap. Legs cut off at thighs. Signed on right leg.

The 14th annual exhibition at Vienna’s Secession House (1902) was dedicated to Beethoven. The show’s centerpiece was Klinger’s over-life-sized sculpture of the great composer in white marble, colored stone, and bronze. This smaller copy was commissioned from Klinger by the tycoon and art patron Karl Wittgenstein for his music room and reproduces just the marble torso, without the original’s colored drapery or throne. It was given to the Museum by Karl’s son Paul, a concert pianist who had moved to New York.


1907, Karl Wittgenstein (b. 1847 - d. 1913), Vienna (original commission); by descent to his son, Paul Wittgenstein (b. 1887 - d. 1961), Vienna and New York [see note 2]; 1952, gift of Paul Wittgenstein to the MFA. (Accession Date: February 14, 1952)

[1] Klinger modeled this marble torso of Beethoven upon his monumental sculpture of the composer, which had been featured in the 1902 Vienna Secession exhibition (now Leipzig, Museum der Bildenden Künste). According to a letter from Emil Delmár, writing on behalf of Paul Wittgenstein's attorney (March 19, 1951), the bust was obtained by his father, the industrialist Karl Wittgenstein, from Klinger himself. Karl Wittgenstein was a major financial contributor to the building of the Secession exhibition hall and patronized other Secession artists, including Josef Hoffmann and Gustav Klimt. According to notes from MFA curator Georg Swarzenski (March 14, 1952), the bust was "commissioned ... for his music room." On the date of the sculpture, see Max Klinger, 1857-1920 (exh. cat. Städtische Galerie, Frankfurt, February 12-June 7, 1992), p. 331. On Karl Wittgenstein as an art patron, see Bernard Michel, "Les Mécènes de la Secession," in Vienne 1880-1938, L'apocalypse joyeuse (Paris, 1986), pp. 180-189 and Jorn K. Bramann and John Moran, "Karl Wittgenstein, Business Tycoon and Art Patron," Austrian History Yearbook XV-XVI (1979-1980): 121-122.

[2] The pianist Paul Wittgenstein, raised Roman Catholic, was considered Jewish according to the Nazi race laws applicable in occupied Austria. In 1938, he and his siblings applied, on racial grounds, for exemption from the obligatory registration of Jewish-owned property. They were unsuccessful. Wittgenstein registered his assets, including his art collection, with the Nazi authorities in July 1938, just before emigrating to the United States. An appraisal of his collection includes this sculpture: "65. Klinger, Beethoven, Marble." Eventually, the Wittgensteins succeeded in having their racial classification changed. Although he had left Austria, Paul Wittgenstein retained ownership of his art collection, much of which he had exported to the United States in the 1950s. For more information, see Hubertus Czernin, "Der wundersame Weg der Eugenie Graff," Der Standard February 27, 1998, p. 34 and Sophie Lillie, Was einmal war: Handbuch der enteigneten Kunstsammlungen Wiens (Vienna: Czernin, 2003): pp. 1332-1339.

Credit Line

Gift of Paul Wittgenstein