Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Fanny Mendelssohn

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Judy Chicago (American, b. 1939). The Dinner Party (Heritage Floor; detail), 1974–79. Porcelain with rainbow and gold luster, 48 x 48 x 48 ft. (14.6 x 14.6 x 14.6 m). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, 2002.10. © Judy Chicago. Photograph by Jook Leung Photography

Fanny Mendelssohn
b. 1805, Hamburg, Germany; d. 1847, Berlin

The elder sister of famed composer Felix Mendelssohn, Fanny was a gifted pianist and prolific composer in her own right, today recognized as one of the most important composers of the Romantic era. Although she wrote some 500 pieces of music, she did not publish under her own name until the year before her death, and the majority of her works remain unpublished. Public presentations of her music were restricted to the domestic sphere; in the 1830s, she hosted a musical salon for which she created and performed many of her compositions. Because some of her noted piano works are structurally similar to songs, they are called Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words). Originally the development of this style was attributed to her brother, but some modern scholars have argued that Fanny may have pioneered it.

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