New Beethoven Portrait by August Ludwig Stein Discovered
AN ARTICLE BY DR. WERNER ROSENBERGER IN KURIER (FEBRUARY 4, 1996) announced the discovery of an unknown oil painting of Beethoven currently in the possession of Joseph Pennock of Sarasota, Florida. The portrait came to the United States when a woman from Dresden, Therese Latzel, moved to Chicago in the early to midtwentieth century; in 1958 she relocated to Florida and decorated her apartment with the picture which she had inherited from the family. Three years after the death of Latzel's husband in 1986, the painting was sold at an estate auction to Pennock.
The unframed portrait measures 17.5 by 21.5 inches, is signed "Sf." and is in "very good" condition (small tears in the surface can be seen to the right side of Beethoven's face). As can be seen from the reproduction, the portrait shows Beethoven in slight profile looking upwards (a characteristic pose also seen in the portraits of Joseph Stieler of 1819 and Ferdinand Schimon from 1818-1819) wearing a brown coat with a white tie. The background is quite dark (brown-sea green), accentuating the whiteness of the necktie and the slightly darker face. The portrait strongly resembles the life mask of Beethoven taken in 1812; although the portrait does not include the pockmarks or scars on Beethoven's face (the omission is typical), it does show the deep cleft in his chin. The only major discrepancy is the nose, which has a slight rise in the middle in the Latzel portrait but dips in the middle in the life mask (see the illustration). Most interestingly, the portrait shows Beethoven with a slight smile on his lips, giving the portrait a unique expression among Beethoven iconography.
Since he purchased the portrait in 1989, Pennock has been extensively involved in researching the painting's provenance and authenticity. The McCrone Research Institute in Chicago identified the never restored painting from a pigment analysis as an original work. Paint samples showed the existence of the following colors (their earliest use is shown in parentheses): lead white, burnt sienna, and bone black (ancient), Naples yellow (1610), Prussian blue (1700), and vermilion (c. 1780). The following pigments commonly in use from 1800-1850 are not present: barium sulfate, chrome yellow, chrome green (1800), cobalt blue (1802), cerulean blue (1805), whiting, precipitated (ca. 1820), cadmium yellow (1817), ultramarine (synthetic, 1824), viridian (1825), and zinc white (1825). The evidence surrounding the canvas is more complicated, since it was machine-woven and machine woven canvases were not generally available until 1820. The McCrone report concludes however that "there is no reason to exclude the possibility of an artist using such a support even a few years before 1800." The report's final statement is that the "painting is the authentic work of an excellent artist about 1800 and very likely painted from life."
Ultraviolet inspection of the painting reveals the letters "Sf." in the lower right corner. The monogram "Sf." is listed as being that of August Ludwig Stein (1732-1814) in Emmanuel Benezit's Dictionnaire Critique et Documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs, et Graveurs (vol. 8, p. 4l). Active as a painter, designer, and engraver, Stein taught drawing from 1765 to 1803 in the Akademie in Leipzig. He is known for his religious subjects, genre scenes, and portraiture. Stein also painted Maria Theresia, Empress of Austria, and Joseph II. As a longtime resident of Leipzig (he died there at the age of eighty-two in December 1814), Stein may have met Beethoven when the composer visited Leipzig in 1796 and would have had the opportunity to read the many reports on Beethoven which appeared in the Leipzig Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung beginning in 1798. As Robin Wallace noted, from 1798 till 1810 "Beethoven's name appeared continually in the pages of the AMZ. Not a single volume passed without mention of the composer, and most contain five or more. ... From 1810 on, however, there was no significant work of Beethoven's music reviewed in the AMZ which was not treated at length, regardless of the critic's opinion" (Beethoven 's Critics, Cambridge: Cambridge Univ., 1986, 6-7). Most of Stein's works were known to have been in the museums in Leipzig and Dresden, according to a short biography and list of his works found in the Allgemeines Lexikon der Bilden Künstler (Leipzig: E. A. seemann, 1937), vol. 31, 545. Recent inquiries of the art museums in Dresden and Leipzig have revealed that the locations of the paintings are unknown at this time.
Otto Biba, Director of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna, believes that the documentation is "sehr plausible!" After comparing the portrait to authentic lithographs from Beethoven's lifetime, Biba believes that "the Beethoven portrayed here appears to be similar to portraits from around 1810, but must be somewhat younger than the Schimon portrait of 1818. And there was in Beethoven's circle actually a musician with the very rare name Latzel. I was somewhat bothered by the transfigured look (Musen-Küss). That was too romantic for me, too much like the nineteenth century. After consulting with art historians, they assured me that this 'look' was in other portraits of this time."
A further investigation into the provenance of the painting suggests the following scenario: until 1830 in Dresden in the possession of the maternal or paternal great-grandmother (name unknown) of Therese Latzel; 1830-1870 in possession of either maternal or paternal grandmother (name unknown) of Therese Latzel; 1870-1958 in Dresden and Chicago in the possession of the parents of Therese Latzel; 1958-1989 in Venice, Florida at the home of Therese Latzel and her husband Vann Paul Lynn.
At the current time, Mr. Pennock is not interested in selling the portrait. It may be included in the exhibition, "Ambassador of Music," opening in the Palais Harrach, Vienna, on October 27, 1996. An extensive report on the painting by the art historian Dr. Joseph A. Polizzi is in the collection of the Beethoven Center.
Publication Information: Article Title: New Beethoven Portrait by August Ludwig Stein Discovered. Contributors: Charles Witcombe - author, William Meredith - author. Journal Title: The Beethoven Journal. Volume: 11. Issue: 1. Publication Year: 1996. Page Number: 32+. © 1996 San Jose State University & The Trustees of the California State University. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.