Max Klinger first conceived his monument to composer Ludwig van Beethoven around 1885-86, when he was still a student in Paris – and the idea came to him “one fine evening at the piano”. The first plaster model of the sculpture dates around 1886. After his return to Berlin in 1887, he worked on finishing the polychrome version and the model shows little change from the final sculpture, which was unveiled at the exhibition of the Vienna Secession in 1902.
Beethoven sits on an imposing bronze throne, raised by a marble plinth, decorated with a complex figurative narrative. It combines classical mythology, but also elements from the Jewish and Christian world, to convey the themes of eternal suffering and hope of deliverance. The whole sculpture is a tribute to both the composer and an almost god-like idea of him: in the late Romantic period, Beethoven had become “the epitome of a working and genial artist, in contact with the supernatural world and therefore damned to suffer but able to overcome this suffering”.
The polychrome sculpture was created using a variety of marble and bronze; the five angel heads behind the figure of Beethoven were made in ivory. Due to their fragile preservation status, the Museum der Bildenden Künste in Leipzig reached out to Factum Foundation to create facsimiles of the heads and fit them in the original sculpture.
The ivory heads were recorded in high resolution by a Factum Foundation team in September 2021 using photogrammetry. After creating the 3D models, the heads were 3D printed at Materialise and moulded in Factum’s workshops in Madrid before being cast in a mix of resin, calcium carbonate and silica to emulate the delicate polychromy of the original.