|Carl's Stieler's Portrait of Beethoven by Irene Lawford-Hinrichsen|
The portrait of Beethoven painted by Joseph Carl Stieler in 1819-20, is one of the best known of the many portraits, which were painted of the composer. It was acquired by the brother of Louis Spohr at a raffle run by the Art Association of Brunswick. He valued the portrait highly because Stieler had assured him, when they had met at their friend Kaulbach's house in Munich, that he was the only painter to whom Beethoven had allowed sittings - and that, only at the specific wish of the composer's friends and patrons, the Brentanos. It is understood to be a very good likeness; only the hands had to be painted from memory, as Beethoven could not be persuaded to sit any longer.
The Stieler portrait was treasured and well
cared for in the Spohr household. Permission
for reproductions was not given until 30 years
after the painter's death and the firm of Hanfstaengl,
who made lithographic reproductions, were not
able to produce their 'Aquarel' print until
1907. On Spohr's death, the painting was inherited
by his daughter Rosalie, the Countess Sauerma,
a well known harpist. It was through the mediation
of the musicologist Max Friedländer that
Henri Hinrichsen, proprietor of the music publishing
company of C.F. Peters, Leipzig, was able to
buy it for 25,000 M from the Countess Sauerma
on 10 February 1909. It had pride of place as
a symbol of the C.F. Peters tradition, in his
private music room in 10 Talstrasse, Leipzig,
the home of the Hinrichsen family and the business
premises of C.F. Peters. A year later, he had
a limited number of reproductions produced for
presentation to a few selected friends. One
of these was the composer Max Reger, whom he
admired tremendously. Henri Hinrichsen was the
one person who helped and supported the workaholic
composer through many difficulties.
Henri Hinrichsen was Jewish and in 1939 the business of C.F. Peters was confiscated from him and 'aryanised'. His entire private art collection, which included the Stieler portrait, as well as his valuable collection of composers autographed letters and manuscripts, was also confiscated. Henri Hinrichsen was murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz on 17th September 1942. He was my grandfather.
Henri Hinrichsen's son Walter Hinrichsen, my uncle a US citizen, returned to Germany in 1945 as a Sergeant in the US army, when he was appointed as Music Officer in the Control Commission in Berlin. He reclaimed Carl Stieler's portrait of Beethoven in Leipzig, during the course of the three months immediately after WWII, before the Russians occupied East Germany. Walter took the portrait to the USA, where it hung in his office at C.F. Peters Corporation in New York. In due course a copy was painted to replace it and the original was sold to the Beethoven House in Bonn in 1981, where it now hangs.
© Irene Lawford-Hinrichsen 2002.
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