Gabriel von Max

 Lied ohne Werte 

circa 1900-1915

oil on wood panel


Gabriel von Max

Lied ohne Werte [Song without Worth or Worthless Song] (Kleiner Affe am Klavier; Small Monkey at Piano),

also known as Lied ohne Worte [Song without Words]

circa 1900-1915

oil on wood panel

31,2 x 23,3 cm (12 1/4 x 9 3/16 in.) (image) 

41,3 x 33,4 (frame)

signed lower right: G v Max

inscribed upper left: Lied ohne Werte

Conserved by Andrea Rothe (formerly, Senior Painting Conservator, Getty Museum) and Jeanne McKee-Rothe (formerly, Conservator, Norton Simon Museum).

Exhibition History:

"Gabriel von Max, Malerstar, Darwinist, Spiritist," Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, Munich, October 23, 2010 - January 30, 2011

"Gabriel von Max: Be-tailed Cousins and Phantasms of the Soul," Frye Art Museum, Seattle, July 9-Oct. 30, 2011

Publication History:

Karin Althaus and Helmut Friedel, eds., Gabriel von Max, Malerstar, Darwinist, Spiritist (München: Hirmer Verlag, 2010), pg. 327, ill. 333.

Aleš Filip and Roman Musil, eds., Gabriel von Max (1840-1915) (Prague: Arbor vitae, 2011), ill. 275, pg. 207.

Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, ed., Gabriel von Max (Seattle: Frye Art Museum, 2011), ill. 61, pg. 79.

Angela Schürzinger, Gabriel von Max' Affenbilder. Zum Einfluss der durch Charles Darwin und Ernst Haeckel vermittelten Evolutionstheorie, M.A. thesis, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, 2012, discussed at pgs. 66-67, ill. no. 24 at pg. 108.

Aleš Filip, “MAXŮV CYKLUS OBRAZOVÝCH FANTAZIÍ K HUDEBNÍM SKLADBÁM” [“Max’s Cycle of Pictorial Fantasies for Musical Compositions”], Musicologica Brunensia 2013 (Brno: Masaryk University, 2014), Vol. 48, issue 2, pgs. 39-58, illustrated at Pl. 8, pg. 55.

Patrick Tort, Darwin, Exposé et Expliqué (Vincennes: Frémeaux & Associés, 2016), audiobook, cover ill.

Karin Althaus, Gabriel von Max, Von ekstatischen Frauen und Affen im Salon, Gemälde zwischen Wahn und Wissenschaft (München: Schirmer/Mosel, 2018), ill. 33, pg. 89.

2038, The New Serenity, a video featuring Lied ohne Werte that was screened as part of the “Disappearing Berlin” series at the Schinkel Pavilion, Berlin (Christopher Roth, filmmaker), February 2020. See The New Serenity video on YouTube.  Team 2038 is an interdisciplinary creative group representing Germany in the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale 2020.  See Elena Ferrari, "2038, The New Serenity: Germany at The Venice Architecture Biennale 2020," Domus magazine, February 19, 2020.


An interesting comparison can be made between this painting and another painting in The Daulton Collection, "Saint Cecilia" (1879), a similar composition more than 20 years earlier with a female saint as its subject.

In addition, the title of this painting, Song Without Worth [Lied ohne Werte], is an ironic reference to Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy's piano composition Song without Words [Lied ohne Worte], a subject Gabriel von Max illustrated much earlier in his career; The Daulton Collection owns one of those illustrations from 1862 (see above on this website). 

It appears that Gabriel von Max based this painting, at least in part, on a photograph of a macaque money, circa 1870.  See photograph, below.  

rhesus macaque or Barbary macaque monkey with handler, probably a professional animal trader
c. 1870
albumin photograph on cardboard
Deutsches Kunstarchiv im Germanischen Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg 
(not owned by The Daulton Collection)
digital copy courtesy of Dr. Karin Althaus

Gabriel von Max owned this photograph, and he inscribed it, in part, "Innus Pithecus. 3 Jahr. mas." ["Inuus Pithecus, 3 year old male"], using archaic nomenclature for the Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus).  Prof. Dr. Helmut Friedel, Direktor, Lenbachhaus, believes that this photograph was “a preparatory photograph” for the painting Lied ohne Werte, "which proves how very closely Max would sometimes follow” a photograph.  (Communication with Jack Daulton, 2010.)  It does indeed appear that the head of the monkey in this photograph was the direct model for the head of the monkey in Lied ohne Werte.  See Althaus and Friedel, pg. 296, ills. 282 and 283.  The photograph also demonstrates that not all of von Max's monkey paintings were created using live models from his menagerie, but were sometimes created using photographs of monkeys perhaps never actually seen in the flesh, as well as cadavers.


The Daulton Collection