Beethoven Frieze was painted by Klimt in 1902 for the 14th Vienna Secessionist exhibition, which was intended to be a celebration of the composer and featured a monumental polychrome sculpture by Max Klinger. Meant for the exhibition only, the frieze was painted directly on the walls with light materials. After the exhibition the painting was preserved, although it did not go on display again until 1986. The Beethoven Frieze is now on permanent display in the Vienna Secession Building.
The frieze illustrates human desire for happiness in a suffering and tempestuous world in which one contends not only with external evil forces but also with internal weaknesses. The viewer follows this journey of discovery in a stunning visual and linear fashion. It begins gently with the floating female Genii searching the Earth but soon follows the dark, sinister-looking storm-wind giant, Typhoeus.
In the first half of this evil vision, a gorilla portrays the giant, Typhoeus, personification of the typhoid which plague European cities, including Vienna, in the nineteenth century. The three gorgons, as exotic, tempting sirens, with gold snaking through their hair, were to reappear in the another controversial work by Klimt, Jurisprudence (1899-1907). Above them, crazed, wasted faces of death and syphilitic disease, also prevalent in Viennese society, stare down. Klimt plays with paradoxical themes of ugliness in beauty and death in love, and the work’s nudity, with explicit black pubic hair, re-incensed the Viennese establishment.
Our team artist Vidisha Varshney she re creates the artwork based on The first group of figures that the floating figures meet are an upright nude woman and a similarly nude kneeling couple. According to the exhibition catalog, these three figures symbolize “Die Leiden der schwachen Menschheit” (The Suffering of Weak Mankind).
The “Suffering of Weak Mankind” group turns pleadingly towards a knight, the “Wohl Gerüsteten Starken” (Knight in Shining Armor), who stands before them. He is shown wearing medieval armor and carrying a mighty sword.
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