MENZEL, Adolph von
(b. 1815, Breslau, d. 1905, Berlin)

A Flute Concert of Frederick the Great at Sanssouci

Oil on canvas, 142 x 205 cm
Nationalgalerie, Berlin

Menzel's oils of the 1850s and 1860s presented dazzling tableaux of a vastly wealthy, conspicuously refined Potsdam court under Frederick the Great (1712-1786), depicted as if on the same gargantuan plane as Versailles, in a Prussian palace more French than the one near Paris. Canvases such as A Flute Concert were images the monarch may have wished painted in his own day, yet none of his artists were up to this task.

The Flute Concert depicts the king playing the flute in his music room at Sanssouci. He was a gifted musician who played the transverse flute. He composed 100 sonatas for the flute as well as four symphonies. His court musicians included C. P. E. Bach, Johann Joachim Quantz, and Franz Benda. A meeting with Johann Sebastian Bach in 1747 in Potsdam led to Bach writing The Musical Offering.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 6 minutes):
Johann Sebastian Bach: Musikalisches Offer, BWV 1079 No.1 Ricercare