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Beethoven 391 by Andy Warhol, basic stock image with revolver gallery watermark.
The Goethe 391 screen print out of frame
Beethoven 390, 391, 392, and 393 in frame.
Certificate of Authenticity on the back of Beethoven 391.
Andy Warhol - Beethoven F.S. II 391 wd jpg

Beethoven 391

Catalogue Title: Beethoven (FS II.391)

Year: 1987

Size: 40” x 40”

Medium: Screenprint on Lenox Museum Board

Edition: Edition of 60. 20 numbered in Roman numerals. 72 individual TP not in portfolios, signed and numbered in pencil on verso.


Beethoven 391 by Andy Warhol is one of four screenprints from Warhol’s Beethoven portfolio. Released in 1987, the year of Warhol’s passing, the portfolio was published by Hermann Wunsche in Bonn, Germany. This series, along with Lenin and Camouflage, was one of the last projects that Warhol completed prior to his death.

As is true of many of his later works, Beethoven 391 seeks to challenge shallow, preconceived notions of Warhol’s style as an artist. In this portfolio, Andy Warhol chooses a subject completely unlike his earlier portraits of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe or Liz Taylor. By choosing to depict Beethoven rather than another contemporary celebrity, Warhol extends his observations on fame and celebrity to new subjects. This is also true of many of the portraits of political leaders that Warhol completed in the ’80s including his Mao series and his Reigning Queens series. By including these vastly different subjects, Warhol invites his audience to consider whether or not these cultural figures, too, have been commercialized by society. 

Warhol’s Beethoven portfolio applies this argument to the classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven, depicting the musician as a different kind of superstar. For this portfolio, Warhol used a portrait of Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler from 1820 as source material. The Stieler portrait is one of the best-known images of Beethoven, and Warhol draws upon the image’s notoriety in the Beethoven 391. Selecting this portrait as the source image reflects Warhol’s desire to capture the way that celebrity and fame are relevant even to a classical giant who might appear to exist outside the scope of these modern phenomena.

In Beethoven 391, Warhol prints the portrait of the German composer in a surprisingly muted color palette. Where in Beethoven 390, 392, and 393 Warhol uses brighter color palettes with blocks of pink, blue, yellow, and green, 391 is the only portrait in this portfolio that utilizes almost no color in the blocking of the portrait. 

In Beethoven 391, the composer’s face, painted a dark grey, is the only block of color in the composition; the clothing and hair appear in black and white, and the figure fades into the black background. Pink and blue outlines accentuate the details on the figure’s face and clothing. Over the screen-printed portrait, Warhol sketched out the sheet music for Beethoven’s “Sonata No.14”—the famous “Moonlight Sonata” for which Beethoven is known—in bright pink which fades into a darker red on the right-hand side of the portrait. The overlaying effect suggests that the composer and his work are inseparable; that any portrait of Beethoven is also a portrait of his musical legacy. Beethoven 391 blurs the line between the intellectual, cultural giants of the past and the pop stars of Warhol’s own day and age, illustrating fame’s far-reaching influence in our lives. 

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