Monument(s) to Beethoven

The Beethoven Monument on Bonn’s Münsterplatz was created by the Dresden sculptor Ernst Hähnel (1811-1891), who won the relevant competition. Financed entirely by donations, roughly a fifth of which came from Franz Liszt, it was unveiled on 12 August 1845 during the first Beethovenfest. Not only has it remained one of the best-known sights in Bonn, it was the world’s first public monument to Beethoven altogether. It was followed by Beethoven monuments in other cities, the largest and best-known of which are the Vienna Monument (1880) created by Caspar von Zumbusch (1830-1915) and the gigantic granite monument unveiled in Karlovy Vary on 29 September 1929, showing Beethoven as a larger-than-life bronze statue. Another is the Beethoven Monument by Max Klinger (1857-1920), a deification of the great artist. It caused a sensation when it was first displayed in spring 1902 at the exhibition of the Vienna Secession, which was devoted to Beethoven. Because of its precious materials, however, it was never intended to be presented in public out of doors and has found its permanent place in the Leipzig Museum of Fine Arts.

Ernst Hähnel’s Beethoven monument on Münsterplatz remained unique until the 20th century. But in the aftermath of the first Beethoven Centennial in 1927, plans were made to erect a 12-metre ‘Ewigkeitsdenkmal’ (Eternity Monument) on the Venusberg in the city of his childhood and youth. All that was realised is the monumental granite sitting sculpture by Peter Breuer (1856-1930), based on a sketch of 1914 and located today in the Rheinaue. In the 1960s a Beethoven bust by the sculptor Franz Rotter (1910-1989) was publicly erected in the Redoute area of the present-day Bad Godesberg district of Bonn. Since 2010 it has been centrally displayed in the Redoutenpark. Since 1990 the eyes of many visitors have been caught by Beethon, a concrete Beethoven bust by Klaus Kammerichs (1933- ) located in the public grounds in front of the Beethovenhalle. Its unusual name is a combination of ‘Beethoven’ and the German word for concrete, Beton. In 2014 Bonn’s outdoor Beethoven monuments were joined in the municipal gardens by the partly coloured Beethoven figure by Markus Lüpertz (1941- ).

Other Beethoven busts are displayed in the gardens of the Beethoven-Haus. They are open to the public during the building’s opening hours, but require payment of an entrance fee. Among them is the well-known Beethoven statue by Naum Aronson (1873-1942), which was erected there in 1905. Until it was closed for renovations in 2016, concert-goers in the Beethovenhalle could stroll past a copy of one of the famous Beethoven busts by the French sculptor and Beethoven enthusiast Émile-Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929). In 1978 a bronze copy on a high pedestal was consecrated in Paris’s Jardin du Luxembourg as a public monument.

Like all lovers of Beethoven, the citizens of Bonn have also taken their Beethoven into their homes, whether as paintings, engravings, busts or pieces of sculpture. Until well into the 20th century the range of art and kitsch on offer was overwhelming, hardly differing from the deification of rock and pop stars today.

(Ingrid Bodsch)

A detailed overview of Bonn’s Beethoven monuments, compiled by the city of Bonn, can be found  here.