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Lot 9: Beethoven, Ludwig van. Autograph letter signed twice.

Historical Auction 84

by Profiles in History

April 18, 2016

Calabasas, CA, USA

Live Auction
Past Lot
  • Beethoven, Ludwig van.  Autograph letter signed twice.
  • Beethoven, Ludwig van.  Autograph letter signed twice.
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Description:

9. Beethoven, Ludwig van. Autograph letter signed twice (“Beethoven”) and (“Legal guardian of my nephew K. v. Beethoven”), in German, 1 page (8.12 x 10.12 in.; 206 x 257 mm.), [Vienna, after 1816], to an unidentified official; stains from tape at head and foot of letter.

Beethoven as legal guardian for his nephew, Karl, requests a favor.

The composer writes in full:

P.P. [Per procurationem]
Ich ersuche höflichst die Beylage durchzulesen und hierauf eine gefällige Antwort zu erteilen.
Ergebenster Diener
Beethoven
Vormund meines Neffen
K. v. Beethoven

Translation:

PP [Per procurationem/ By the agency of]
I would like to most politely ask you to read the attachment and grant a favorable answer thereto.
Your most loyal servant,
Beethoven
Legal guardian of my nephew
K. v. Beethoven


Writing in his capacity as legal guardian to his nephew, Beethoven requests a favorable response from an unidentified correspondent. The formal tone of the letter suggests the composer is appealing for assistance with an official matter on behalf of his nephew, Karl.

In 1813, when Kaspar van Beethoven’s health began to seriously deteriorate, he signed a declaration appointing his brother, Ludwig, guardian of his son, then aged six, in the event of his death. Kaspar died on 15 November 1815. In his will dated the previous day, he assigned guardianship of his son both to his wife and to Ludwig, apparently hoping that the two would put aside their long-standing animosity. This effort failed entirely, as after his death Ludwig and Johanna engaged in a lengthy and bitter custody struggle over Karl.

During the years of custody that followed, Beethoven attempted to ensure that Karl lived to the highest moral standards. Beethoven had an overbearing manner and frequently interfered in his nephew’s life. Karl attempted suicide on 31 July 1826 by shooting himself in the head. He survived and was brought to his mother’s house, where he recuperated. He and Beethoven were reconciled, but Karl insisted on joining the army and last saw Beethoven in early 1827.

Apparently unpublished.

Provenance: Walter Slezak––present owner. $100,000 - $150,000

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