Count Deym

Count Joseph Deym von Střitetž and his Müllerische Kunstcabinet

Count Joseph Deym von Střitetž was born in Bohemia in 1750. He joined the army, and after an unlucky duel in which he thought he had killed his opponent he fled to Holland and became a wax sculptor under the pseudonym Müller. [1] He soon went to Italy, where he set about making plaster copies of statues, busts, and vases in Naples, Rome, and Florence. [2] At Naples, Queen Carolina even permitted him to make copies of Sir William Hamilton’s collections. A wealthy man, Müller settled in Vienna in about 1780 and opened his first Müllerische Kunstcabinet in the Stock-im-Eisen-Platz near St. Stephen’s Cathedral, where he exhibited about one hundred copied items. [3] By charging entrance fees Müller soon expanded his collection to include original bronze and ivory statuaries, life-like wax figures of numerous eminent contemporaries, costly vases, paintings, drawings, Spieluhren, automatons, and all manner of fabulous art works. [4]

Mozart composed several pieces for Müller’s Spieluhren. The first, his Adagio and Allegro in F Minor/Major (K. 594), was begun in October 1790 while on a journey to Frankfurt and completed in December 1790. [5] The eight-minute work was heard hourly in the fabulous Laudon Mausoleum erected in honor of Emperor Joseph II and Field Marshal Gideon Ernst von Laudon. [6] Mozart’s second piece, the Fantasie in F Minor (K. 608), is dated 3 March 1791. [7] There is no record of any other instrument performing this piece. [8] The Andante in F Major (K. 616) was completed 4 May 1791. [9] Otto Erich Deutsch writes that the third piece was probably performed by

a lady en négligée [sic] [10] and modelled life-size, seated at the pianoforte, on which lies the apparatus required for playing; she touches the keys with her fingers, and one is frequently deceived with the more certainty when the adjoining magnificent clock, which is in a well-gilt case, announces the quarter-hours with its chimes, but the hours with the pianoforte itself. [11]

Alfred Einstein suggests that a fourth piece by Mozart, a mechanical version of the first movement of the Adagio and Rondo for Glass Harmonica, Flute, Oboe, Viola, and Cello (K. 617), composed 23 May 1791, may have been used in another display, the “Bedroom of the Graces.” [12]

As Müller’s art collection continued to expand he moved to a new building in the Kohlmarkt near the Imperial Palace in 1795. [13] In that same year he received the title of Imperial and Royal Moulder and Sculptor, and later that of chamberlain. [14] In 1797 Müller began construction of a still larger building the palatial “Müller’sche Gebäude” near Rotenturmtor on the Danube, and went very much in debt. He moved his collection to the new building in 1798. [15]

In May 1799 the Countess Anna Elisabeth Brunsvik brought her two daughters Therese and Josephine from their home in Maronvászár (near Buda) to Vienna to introduce them into society. During the first day of their eighteen-day stay in Vienna, the Brunsviks visited the Müllerische Kunstcabinet and received a personal tour from Müller, who immediately fell in love with Josephine. Just prior to the Brunsviks’ return to Martonvászár, Müller proposed to Josephine. [16] Müller reassumed his original name and title, [17] and the two were married in Martonvászár on 29 June 1799. They returned to live in Vienna. [18] It was during that year that Beethoven gave Deym three pieces for mechanical clock (WoO 33, nos. 1-3). [19]

Deym died 27 January 1804, before the birth of his fourth child, and left Josephine to handle the affairs of the deeply indebted enterprise. Josephine remarried 13 February 1810–to the Baron Christoph Stackelberg–and had three more children. Stackelberg left Vienna in 1812 for a lengthy trip through Germany. He returned some time later, only to take his three small daughters first to Bohemia and then to Estonia. He never returned. Josephine died 31 March 1821 leaving the gallery to her four children, who by 1823 had sold the entire collection. [20] None of the Flötenuhren survives. [21]


[1] Otto Erich Deutsch, “Count Deym and His Mechanical Organs,” Music and Letters 29 (1948): 140.

[2] Ernst Simon, Mechanische Musikinstrumente frührer Zeiten und ihre Musik(Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1960), p. 74.

[3] Deutsch, p. 140.

[4] Simon, p. 74.

[5] Georg Kinsky, “Beethoven und die Flötenuhr,” in Beethoven-Almanach der Deutschen Musikbücherei auf das Jahr 1927, ed. Gustav Bosse (Regensburg: Gustav Bosse, 1927), p. 323.

[6] According to Simon, p. 74, the mausoleum was first announced in the Wiener Zeitung on 23 March 1791 as a building separate from the Kunstcabinet. Deutsch, p. 143, however, quotes a description of the mausoleum from the 17 August 1791 issue of the Zeitung that indicates that the enormous mausoleum was constructed inside the Kunstcabinet.

[7] Kinsky, p. 323.

[8] Simon, p. 78, states that it too may have been performed in the Laudon Mausoleum.

[9] Kinsky, p. 323.

[10] Brackets Deutsch’s.

[11] Deutsch, pp. 142, 144-45.

[12] Ibid., p. 144. An 1801 description of the “Bedroom of the Graces”: “A glorious flute music, as though inspired by the breath of love, resounds, without its being possible to tell whence the magic notes come. It is an Adagio by the unforgettable Mozart.” Ibid.

[13] Ibid., p. 140.

[14] Ibid, p. 141.

[15] Simon, p. 82. See also Deutsch, p. 141.

[16] Simon, p. 82.

[17] Deutsch, p. 141.

[18] Simon, p. 82.

[19] See “History” under “WoO 33, nos. 1-3” on this site.

[20] Simon, p. 83. Deutsch, pp. 141-42, writes that the gallery was “partly disposed of and partly destroyed.”

[21] Deutsch, p. 142.

© Weldon Whipple. All rights reserved.

By Weldon Whipple