[Beethoven, Ludwig van. (1770–1827)]
An undated plaster cast of Beethoven's death mask, in fine condition. With inset insignia of the Beethoven-Haus, Bonn. 17.5 x 26 cm.
In 1812, the Viennese piano-makers and friends of Beethoven, Nannette and Andreas Streicher (a school day friend of Schiller) opened a big piano room they also used as concert hall. They wanted to decorate this room with busts of famous musicians. The sculptor Franz Klein was commissioned to this end to produce a naturalistic bust of Beethoven. (Before 1805, Klein had created busts for the medical doctor Franz Joseph Gall, just for scientific purposes.)
The sculptor first created Beethoven's life mask made of plaster. According to the Streicher family, this had not been successful at the first try, since Beethoven was afraid of suffocating under the plaster that Klein molded on his face. But the second try was successful and Franz Klein shaped a bust based on the model of the created face mask. However, he had to complete the composer's eyes and hair by himself, since those areas of the face had been covered when removing the mask. The original bust produced by Klein had been in the possession of the Streicher family until the beginning of the 20th century. (Thereafter it became the possession of the Historical Museum of the City of Vienna) In 1890, a mold was made for the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn based on this original bust. This mold, too, had been copied and casted several times. The present undated example is one such authorized casting from the Beethoven-Haus.