Virtuosity Domesticated: Portraits of Franz Liszt by Two Biedermeier Artists
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 13 April 2011
The wide variety of nineteenth-century images of the great pianist—composer Franz Liszt (1811–1886) provides both art historians and musicologists with a rich resource through its sheer diversity and comprehensiveness. Of great potential value are the insights that Lisztian iconography may provide into the changing nature of Romanticism and music during much of the nineteenth century.
- Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2005
1 The term ‘Biedermeier’ was applied retrospectively to bourgeois middle-class German and Austrian art from 1815 to 1848, the name itself deriving from a fictional character from a journal of the period.
2 Images of Liszt have already received some attention in musicological or historical studies. Most significant is Ernst Burger's comprehensive study (originally published in German, then in English three years later), Franz Liszt: A Chronicle of His Life and Times in Pictures and Documents, trans. Spencer, Stewart (Princeton, NJ, 1989). Burger's study is an outstanding work in itself as well as being a valuable resource for iconographic study. Also of note are essays or articles by Richard Leppert, Elaine Brody, Alessandra Comini and a chapter on Lisztian iconography by Bertrand Ott. Some of these works will be discussed and cited later in the course of this articleGoogle Scholar.
3 Leppert, Richard, ‘Cultural Contradiction, Idolatry, and the Piano Virtuoso: Franz Liszt,’ in Piano Roles: Three Hundred Years of Life with the Piano, ed. Parakilas, James (New Haven, 1999), 264–5.Google Scholar
7 Biedermeier culture itself was not restricted to Vienna in the sense that a ‘Biedermeier phase’ of Romanticism can be identified as occurring throughout Europe after the initial heat of high Romanticism had cooled. This more reserved stage of Romanticism rejected the ‘visionary, all-integrating, titanic claims of high romanticism’ and partially returned to the attitudes of the eighteenth century. See Nemoianu, Virgil, The Taming of Romanticism: European Literature and the Age of Biedermeier (Cambridge, 1984), 6CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
10 Some notable portraits of Liszt from the 1830s do indeed show Liszt as the ‘Romantic virtuoso’: portraits such as those by Ary Scheffer and Henri Lehmann. This distinctive iconography of Liszt has been discussed recently elsewhere, but it is worth noting that these portraits show Liszt in a typically Romantic manner, stressing his difference and isolation. For a discussion of the significance of this type of Lisztian portraiture in the developing imagery of the musician see Davison, Alan, ‘The Musician in Iconography from the 1830s and 1840s: The Formation of New Visual Types’, Music in Art, 28 (2003): 145–60Google Scholar.
11 This split is discussed by Weber, William in Music and the Middle Classes: The Social Structure of Concert Life in London, Paris and Vienna (New York, 1975; Aldershot, 2003)Google Scholar.
12 Himmelheber, Georg, Biedermeier 1815–1835: Architecture, Painting, Sculpture, Decorative Arts, Fashion (Munich, 1989), 34.Google Scholar
13 Comini, Alessandra, The Changing Image of Beethoven: A Study in Mythmaking (New York, 1987), 209.Google Scholar
15 Bisanz, Hans, ‘Authentic Biedermeier Painting and Graphic Art’, in Vienna in the Biedermeier Era: 1815–1848, ed. Waissenburger, Robert (New York, 1986), 161.Google Scholar
17 Liszt attempted to write a Byronic opera, making efforts towards a setting of Le Corsaire and then Sardanapale. Both attempts were aborted, although some music was sketched for the latter. See Hamilton's, Kenneth ‘Not with a Bang but a Whimper: The Death of Liszt's “Sardanapale”’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 8 (1996): 45–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
21 Williams, Adrian, Portrait of Liszt: By Himself and his Contemporaries (Oxford, 1990), 114–15.Google Scholar
22 Wythe, Deborah, ‘Conrad Graf (1782–1851): Imperial Royal Court Fortepiano Maker in Vienna’, Ph.D. diss. (New York University, 1990), 270.Google Scholar
23 See Good, Edwin M., Giraffes, Black Dragons, and other Pianos: A Technological History from Cristofori to the Modern Concert Grand, second edition (Stanford, 2001), 178–85.Google Scholar
24 Letter of 13 April 1839, in Liszt, Franz, Selected Letters, ed. and trans. Williams, Adrian (Oxford, 1998), 84. The piano was in fact generously offered to him by ThalbergGoogle Scholar.
32 See Piper, David, The Image of the Poet: British Poets and their Portraits (Oxford, 1982).Google Scholar
36 Farwell, Beatrice, French Popular Lithographic Imagery, 1815–1870: Portraits and Types (Chicago, 1997), 1.Google Scholar
37 The following biographical information is based upon Krasa, Selma, Josef Kriehuber: Der Porträtist einer Epoche (Vienna, 1987)Google Scholar.
38 This distortion of physiognomy is significant in itself and should not be dismissed lightly as it usually reflects commonly held assumptions of the time regarding the physical qualities of musicians. See Davison, Alan, ‘High-Art Music and Low-Brow Types: Physiognomy and Nineteenth-Century Music Iconography’, Context, 17 (1999): 5–19Google Scholar.
43 Cook, Nicholas and Dibben, Nicola, ‘Musicological Approaches to Emotion’, in Music and Emotion: Theory and Research, ed. Juslin, Patrik and Sloboda, John (Oxford, 2001), 53.Google Scholar
46 Details of the event were recorded by the English historian Julia Pardoe, amongst others. See Williams, , Portrait of Liszt, 116–19Google Scholar.
48 Liszt, Franz, An Artist's Journey: Lettres d'un bachelier ès musique, 1835–1841, trans. and annot. Suttoni, Charles (Chicago, 1989), 139.Google Scholar
50 Wiesmann, Sigrid, ‘Vienna: Bastian of Conservatism’, In The Early Romantic Era: Between Revolutions: 1789–1848, ed. Ringer, Alexander (New Jersey, 1990), 86.Google Scholar
51 See Ritterman, Janet, ‘Concert Life in Paris; 1808–1838: Influences on the Performance and Repertoire of Professional Pianists’, Ph.D. diss. (London, 1985), chapter 7Google Scholar.
56 Botstein, Leon, ‘Vienna: 1806–1945’ in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, ed. Sadie, Stanley and Tyrrell, John (London, 2001), 26: 560.Google Scholar