Thayer's copy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Thayer's copy of Joseph Willibrord Mähler's portrait of Beethoven.jpg
Thayer's copy of Joseph Willibrord Mähler's 1804—05 portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven
Year1808 (1808)
MediumOil on canvas
SubjectLudwig van Beethoven
Dimensions145 cm × 12 cm × 117 cm (57 in × 4.75 in × 46 in)
LocationNew York Public Library for the Performing Arts, New York City
OwnerNew York Public Library
AccessionNovember 26, 1940
WebsiteCatalog record

Thayer's copy of Beethoven (Mähler, 1804–05) is an oil painting portrait of the composer Ludwig van Beethoven. Estimated to have been painted around 1808, it is a copy by an unidentified painter of the untitled portrait of Beethoven from 1804-05 by Joseph Willibrord Mähler. This copy was owned for many years by Alexander Wheelock Thayer, author of the first scholarly biography of the composer, who considered it one of his most prized possessions.[1] Today the painting belongs to the New York Public Library.


Thayer estimated the copy of Mähler's portrait to have been painted approximately in 1808 by an unidentified artist (it is known that Mähler did not paint the copy himself).[2] The date derives from a listing in an 1890 exhibition catalog for a Beethoven festival held in Bonn.[3] Since Thayer was still living in 1890, musicologists Luigi Bellofatto and Owen Jander surmise that he must have personally lent the portrait for exhibition and most likely provided the date.[2]

The earliest known owner of the portrait was Ferdinand Luib, editor of the noted musical journal, the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung. Bellofatto and Jander hypothesize that Luib, having unsuccessfully compiled materials for a biography of Franz Schubert, recognized the same research drive in Thayer and presented him with the portrait as a gift.[2] When Thayer was appointed US Consul to Italy, the portrait hung the American Consulate in Trieste. (Thayer held the position from 1865—1882.[4]) Upon Thayer's death in 1897, it was inherited by his niece Susan Elizabeth Fox. She donated it to the Beethoven Association, a New York-based group that came into existence for the purpose of translating Thayer's biography into English by producing chamber music concerts. (The translation by Henry Edward Krehbiel was first published by the Beethoven Association for its members in 1921.[5])

In 1940, the Beethoven Association disbanded and donated its holdings (including the painting) to the New York Public Library. At its opening in 1965, the painting hung in the Music Division's Special Collections reading room of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Since the 2001 renovation, the painting has hung in the Special Collections Reading Room named for Katherine Cornell and Guthrie McClintic.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bellofatto 2006, p. 13.
  2. ^ a b c Bellofatto 2006, p. 15.
  3. ^ Katalog der mit der Beethoven-Feier zu Bonn am 11.-15. Mai 1890 verbunden Ausstellung (Bonn: Verlag des Vereins Beethoven-Haus, 1890).
  4. ^ Claman 2007.
  5. ^ Thayer 1921.


  • Bellofatto, Luigi D.; Jander, Owen (2006), "Thayer's Copy of the Mähler Portrait of Beethoven, ca. 1804", Beethoven Journal, 21 (2): 13–15
  • Claman, Henry D.; Belofatto, Luigi D. (2007), "Alexander Wheelock Thayer: Brief life of Beethoven's biographer: 1817-1897", Harvard Magazine
  • Jander, Owen (2008), "'Let Your Deafness No Longer Be a Secret--Even in Art': Self-Portraiture and the Third Movement of the C-Minor Symphony", Beethoven Forum, 8 (1): 25–70
  • Thayer, Alexander Wheelock (1921), The Life of Ludwig van Beethoven, New York: Beethoven Association
  • Thayer, Alexander Wheelock (1967), Forbes, Elliot (ed.), Thayer's life of Beethoven, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, ISBN 9780691027029


External links[edit]