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Trait Vincennes, the lawn at Fontenay
Beethoven's monument...
the Beethoven Monument as it could be seen in 1927...

At the start of the XXth century, a Committee for Beethoven Monument was set up.It's objective was the realisation of a monument in honour of Beethoven in the centre of Paris.

A decree by the President of the Republic, dated December 20th 1909, oversaw it's installation at Ranelagh, Paris. But administrative complications deprived the capital of this monument which was instead erected at Vincennes, on the lawn at Fontenay.

Beethoven should have been depicted lying down, half dressed, thoughtful and creative...

But José de Charmoy went to war it 1914, before finishing the monument.

The base was entirely finished, but not the statue. The sculptor died at war and the sculpture has never been finished.

The plaster model was exposed on it's base for a certain time, but it was too fragile and broke in time into pieces.

Beethoven by José de Charmoy

The statue realised for the Beethoven Monument by José de Charmoy between 1909 and 1911...

There rests then, nothing but this immense base (see photos below...), of an approximate size of 6 metres long, 4 metres deep and 3 metres high. Four winged seraphs hold up the missing monument, the composer who should have been glorified. The four seraphs represent the Symphony 'Eroica', the Sonata 'Pathetique', the Ninth Symphony, and the 'Moonlight' Sonata.

Access to this monument is strictly by foot, because the route is not open to vehicles.

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Trait Some of my photos of the monument as it is today
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Trait Article published in May 1958 in the Municipal Bulletin of Vincennes

"In the past (it's not necessarily the same today) the East of Paris has often been considered as a more appropriate area for holding statues which Paris and the Western regions did not want.

Concerning the Beethoven monument, it was perhaps a mistake that the capital, just before the war of 1914, decided to get rid of it by sending it to Vincennes wood.

The work of José de Charmoy doesn't lack character, it's just that finding a suitable place for this character in Paris posed a problem. The lawn at Fontenay was chosen as its destination, amongst a group of ancient oak trees.

José de Charmoy

Drawing of José de Charmoy next to the base of the Beethoven Monument. Drawing appeared in Musica n°32 dated May 1905...

A huge shed was built, because the monument existed only in model form, and the sculptor was to create the final piece in stone on the spot. Months passed. War broke out. José de Charmoy abandoned his work. It was never finished, and the artist died, unnoticed.

All seemed lost. The first part of this story came to an end one day when the shed collapsed over the model. After cleaning, José de Charmoy 's piece looked as it did in 1958: the four powerful genies with immense wings holding the heavy pedestal.

The years passed and it was only in 1927 that Edouard Herriot inaugurated the monument. However, it was a fake! "The Friends of Beethoven" had simply placed on the stone table the "plaster" of the laid-down statue, started beforehand by the artist and which he would have finished at Vincennes had his death not occured. The Town of Paris had reservations, but the Committee confirmed that Beethoven's centenary (in the same year of 1927) permitted the collection of enough funds for a like-minded sculptor to be found and to finish the piece.

Time passed. The committee did not raise any funds and the plaster statue began to disintigrate. The time came where there was nothing more to do except remove the remaining pieces. The third monument was created - very similar to the first.

We think that this is its definitive state.

Thirty years ago we wrote in an article these ever relevent words : "the only mistake was wanting to place this monument in the Paris region. For Beethoven, the grandour of a mountain or the solitude of an immense forest is needed."


This article is published with the authorisation of the
Service des Archives de la ville de Vincennes

and the Office municipal de l'Information et des Relations publiques.
Thank you very much!

Thanks also to Jacques and to Ton'Ton Martial
for their research...

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Many thanks to Hannah SALTER for her translation of this page from French into English
© Dominique PREVOT
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