Happy Hallowe'en from Ludwig van Beethoven's skull! The photo was taken by J. B. Rottmayer in 1863, when Beethoven's remains (and Franz Schubert's) were exhumed under the auspices of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in order that they might be reinterred in more suitably monumental fashion in Vienna's Währing cemetery. (In 1888, the Währing cemetery having closed, the Gesellschaft would upgrade Ludwig yet again, to Vienna's Zentralfriedhof, where the body resides to this day.) The skull is incomplete—at some point (probably in 1863), someone (probably Gerhard von Breuning, son of Stephen von Breuning, one of Beethoven's friends and biographers) removed two bone fragments that are now in the collection of San José State University's Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies. Also, at some point (probably during Beethoven's autopsy in 1827) the ossicles, the bones of the middle ear, were also removed, and subsequently disappeared. (The saga of Beethoven's skull was traced by William Meredith in the Summer/Winter 2005 issue of The Beethoven Journal.)
Richard Wagner, in his 1870 book on Beethoven, in language reminiscent of Romantic consdierations of Beethoven's deafness, pointed to the size of Beethoven's skull as proof of his privileged access to an interior world of inspiration:
It used to be held as a physiological axiom that for high intellectual endowments a large brain should be enclosed in a thin delicate skull, to facilitate an immediate cognition of external things; nevertheless, upon the inspection of his remains some years ago, we saw, in conformity with the entire skeleton, a skull of altogether unusual thickness and firmness. Thus nature guarded a brain of excessive delicacy, so that it might look inwards, and carry on in undisturbed repose the world contemplation of a great heart. This supremely robust constitution enclosed and preserved an inner world of such transparent delicacy, that, if left defenceless to the rough handling of the outer world, it would have dissolved gently and evaporated[.]Over at Soho the Dog, Arnold Schoenberg (who figures prominently in chapter 6 of The First Four Notes) offers his own holiday contribution.