Bertel Thorvaldsen

Bertel Thorvaldsen

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Bertel Thorvaldsen'
Start a new discussion about 'Bertel Thorvaldsen'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Bertel Thorvaldsen (ˌbɛɐ̯dl̩ ˈtɔɐ̯vælsn̩; ca. 1770 – 24 March 1844) was a Danish
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

-Icelandic sculptor
Sculpture
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

 of international fame, who spent most of his life in Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 (from 1789–1838). Thorvaldsen was born in Copenhagen into a Danish/Icelandic family of humble means, and was accepted to the Royal Academy of Arts when he was eleven years old. Working part-time with his father, who was a wood carver, Thorvaldsen won many honors and medals at the academy. He was awarded a stipend to travel to Rome and continue his education.

In Rome Thorvaldsen quickly made a name for himself as a sculptor. Maintaining a large workshop in the city, he worked in a heroic neo-classicist style. His patrons resided all over Europe.

Upon his return to Denmark in 1838, Thorvaldsen was received as a national hero. The Thorvaldsens Museum
Thorvaldsens Museum
The Thorvaldsen Museum is a single-artist museum in Copenhagen, Denmark, dedicated to the art of Danish neoclassicistic sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen , who lived and worked in Rome for most of his life . The museum is located on the small island of Slotsholmen in central Copenhagen next to...

 was erected to house his works next to Christiansborg Palace
Christiansborg Palace
Christiansborg Palace, , on the islet of Slotsholmen in central Copenhagen, is the seat of the Folketing , the Danish Prime Minister's Office and the Danish Supreme Court...

. Thorvaldsen is buried within the courtyard of the museum. In his time, he was seen as the successor of master sculptor Antonio Canova
Antonio Canova
Antonio Canova was an Italian sculptor from the Republic of Venice who became famous for his marble sculptures that delicately rendered nude flesh...

. His strict adherence to classical norms has tended to estrange modern audiences. Among his more famous works are the statues of Nicolaus Copernicus
Nicolaus Copernicus
Nicolaus Copernicus was a Renaissance astronomer and the first person to formulate a comprehensive heliocentric cosmology which displaced the Earth from the center of the universe....

 and Jozef Poniatowski in Warsaw
Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

; the statue of Maximilian I in Munich
Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

; and the tomb monument of Pope Pius VII, the only work by a non-Italian in St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Basilica
The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter , officially known in Italian as ' and commonly known as Saint Peter's Basilica, is a Late Renaissance church located within the Vatican City. Saint Peter's Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world...

.

Biography


Thorvaldsen was born in Copenhagen
Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

 in 1770 (according to some accounts, in 1768), the son of Gottskálk Þorvaldsson, an Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

er who had settled in Denmark. His father was a wood-carver at a ship yard. Thorvaldsen made decorative carvings for large ships and was the early source of influence on his son Bertel's development as a sculptor and on his choice of career. Thorvaldsen's mother was Karen Grønlund, a Jutland
Jutland
Jutland , historically also called Cimbria, is the name of the peninsula that juts out in Northern Europe toward the rest of Scandinavia, forming the mainland part of Denmark. It has the North Sea to its west, Kattegat and Skagerrak to its north, the Baltic Sea to its east, and the Danish–German...

ic peasant girl. His birth certificate and baptismal records have never been found, and the only record is of his confirmation in 1887. Some Icelanders dispute this account, claiming Thorvaldsen was born in Iceland. Thorvaldsen had claimed descent from Snorri Thorfinnsson, the first European born in America
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

.

Childhood and education


Thorvaldsen's childhood in Copenhagen was humble. His father had a drinking habit that slowed his career. Nothing is known of Thorvaldsen's early schooling, and he may have been schooled entirely at home. He never became good at writing, and he never acquired much of the knowledge of fine culture that was expected from an artist.

In 1781, by the help of some friends, eleven year old Thorvaldsen was admitted to Copenhagen's Royal Danish Academy of Art
Royal Danish Academy of Art
The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts has provided a practice-oriented complement to the scholarly investigation of the arts carried out at Danish universities for more than 250 years, playing a crucial part in the development of the distinctive tradition of the art of Denmark.- History :The Royal...

 (Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi) first as draftsman, and from 1786 at the modeling school. At night he would help his father in the wood carving. Among his professors were Nicolai Abildgaard and Johannes Wiedewelt
Johannes Wiedewelt
Johannes Wiedewelt , Danish neoclassical sculptor, was born in Copenhagen to royal sculptor to the Danish Court, Just Wiedewelt, and his wife Birgitte Lauridsdatter...

, who are both likely influences for his later neo-classicist style.

At the Academy he was highly praised for his works and won all the prizes from the small Silver Medal to the large Gold Medal for a relief of St. Peter healing the crippled beggar in 1793. As a consequence, he was granted a Royal stipend, enabling him to complete his studies in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

. Leaving Copenhagen on August 30 on the frigate
Frigate
A frigate is any of several types of warship, the term having been used for ships of various sizes and roles over the last few centuries.In the 17th century, the term was used for any warship built for speed and maneuverability, the description often used being "frigate-built"...

 Thetis, he landed in Palermo
Palermo
Palermo is a city in Southern Italy, the capital of both the autonomous region of Sicily and the Province of Palermo. The city is noted for its history, culture, architecture and gastronomy, playing an important role throughout much of its existence; it is over 2,700 years old...

 in January 1797 traveled to Napoli where he studied for a month before making his entry to Rome on 8 March 1797. Since the date of his birth had never been recorded, he celebrated this day as his "Roman birthday" for the rest of his life.

In Rome


In Rome he lived at Via Sistina in front of the Spanish Steps
Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps are a set of steps in Rome, Italy, climbing a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church at the top. The Scalinata is the widest staircase in Europe...

 and had his workshop in the stables of the Palazzo Barberini
Palazzo Barberini
Palazzo Barberini is a palace in Rome, facing the piazza of the same name in Rione Trevi and is home to the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica.-History:...

. He was taken under the wing of Georg Zoëga a Danish Archeologist and numismatist living in Rome. Zoëga took an interest in seeing to it that the young Thorvaldsen acquired an appreciation of the antique arts. As a frequent guest at Zoëga's house he met Anna Maria v. Uhden, born Magnani. She had worked in Zoëga's house as a maid and had married a German archeologist. She became Thorvaldsen's mistress and she left her husband in 1803. In 1813 she gave birth to a daughter, Elisa Thorvaldsen.

Thorvaldsen also studied with another Dane, Asmus Jacob Carstens
Asmus Jacob Carstens
Asmus Jacob Carstens was a Danish-German painter.-Biography:He was born in Sanct Jürgen near Schleswig to a miller. He had a youthful passion for painting, but was placed in a mercantile house...

 whose handling of classic themes became a source of inspiration. Thorvaldsen's first success was the model for a statue of Jason
Jason
Jason was a late ancient Greek mythological hero from the late 10th Century BC, famous as the leader of the Argonauts and their quest for the Golden Fleece. He was the son of Aeson, the rightful king of Iolcus...

, finished in 1801 it was highly praised by Antonio Canova
Antonio Canova
Antonio Canova was an Italian sculptor from the Republic of Venice who became famous for his marble sculptures that delicately rendered nude flesh...

, the most popular sculptor in the city. But the work was slow in selling and his stipend having run he planned his return to Denmark. In 1803 as he was set to leave Rome, he received the commission to execute it in marble from Thomas Hope, a wealthy English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 art-patron. From that time Thorvaldsen's success was assured, and he did not leave Italy for sixteen years.

The Marble Jason was not finished until 25 years later, as Thorvaldsen quickly became a busy man. Also in 1803, he started work on Achilles and Briseïs
Achilles and Briseis
Achilles and Briseis is a picture found in Pompeii, Italy, painted in distemper. It was at one time moved to the Museum of Naples. Agostino Carracci produced an engraving from it.-References:...

 his first classically themed relief. I 1804 he finished Dance of the Muses at Helicon and a group statue of Amor and Psyche and other important early works such as Apollo, Bacchus og Ganymedes. During 1805 he had to expand his workshop and enlist the help of several assistants. These assistants undertook most of the marble cutting and the master limited himself to doing the sketches and the finishing touches. Commissioned by Ludwig I of Bavaria
Ludwig I of Bavaria
Ludwig I was a German king of Bavaria from 1825 until the 1848 revolutions in the German states.-Crown prince:...

 in 1808 and finished in 1832 a statue of Adonis
Adonis
Adonis , in Greek mythology, the god of beauty and desire, is a figure with Northwest Semitic antecedents, where he is a central figure in various mystery religions. The Greek , Adōnis is a variation of the Semitic word Adonai, "lord", which is also one of the names used to refer to God in the Old...

 is one of the few works in marble carved solely by Thorvaldsen's own hand, and at the same time it is one of the works that is closest to the antique Greek ideals.

In the spring of 1818 Thorvaldsen fell ill and during his convalescence he was nursed by the Scottish lady Miss Frances Mackenzie. Thorvaldsen proposed to her on March 29, 1819, but the engagement was cancelled after a month. Thorvaldsen had fallen in love with another woman: Fanny Caspers. Torn between Mackenzie and the mother of his daughter Thorvaldsen never succeeded in making Miss Caspers his wife.

Return



In 1819 he visited his native Denmark. Here he was commissioned to make the colossal series of statues of Christ
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 and the twelve Apostles for the rebuilding of Vor Frue Kirke
Church of Our Lady (Copenhagen)
The Church of Our Lady is the cathedral of Copenhagen and the National Cathedral of Denmark. It is situated on Vor Frue Plads and next to the main building of the University of Copenhagen....

 (from 1922 known as the Copenhagen Cathedral) between 1817 and 1829, after its having been destroyed in the British bombardment of Copenhagen
Battle of Copenhagen (1807)
The Second Battle of Copenhagen was a British preemptive attack on Copenhagen, targeting the civilian population in order to seize the Dano-Norwegian fleet and in turn originate the term to Copenhagenize.-Background:Despite the defeat and loss of many ships in the first Battle of Copenhagen in...

 in 1807. These were executed after his return to Rome, and were not completed till 1838, when Thorvaldsen returned with his works to Denmark, being received as a hero.

Towards the end of 1843 he was prohibited from working for medical reasons, but he began to work again in January 1844. His last composition from 24 March was a sketch for a statue of the genie made by chalk on a blackboard. At night he had dinner with his friends Adam Oehlenschläger and H. C. Andersen and he is said to have referred to the finished museum saying: "Now I can die whenever it is time, because Bindesbøll
Michael Gottlieb Bindesbøll
Michael Gottlieb Birckner Bindesbøll was a Danish architect active during the Danish Golden Age in the first half of the 19th century. Most known for his design of Thorvaldsens Museum in Copenhagen, he was a key figure in the stylistic shift in Danish architecture from late classicism to Historicism...

 has finished my tomb."
After the meal he went to the Copenhagen Royal Theatre where he died suddenly from an aneurysm. He had bequeathed a great part of his fortune for the building and endowment of a museum in Copenhagen, and left instructions to fill it with all his collection of works of art and the models for all his sculptures, a very large collection, exhibited to the greatest possible advantage. Thorvaldsen is buried in the courtyard of this museum, under a bed of roses, by his own special wish.

Works


Thorvaldsen was an outstanding representative of the Neoclassical
Neoclassicism
Neoclassicism is the name given to Western movements in the decorative and visual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture that draw inspiration from the "classical" art and culture of Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome...

 period in sculpture
Sculpture
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

, in fact he became the foremost artist in the field after the death of Antonio Canova in 1822 and his work was often compared to that of Antonio Canova
Antonio Canova
Antonio Canova was an Italian sculptor from the Republic of Venice who became famous for his marble sculptures that delicately rendered nude flesh...

. The poses and expressions of his figures are much more stiff and formal than those of Canova's. Thorvaldsen embodied the style of classical Greek
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 art more than the Italian artist, he believed that only through the imitation of classical art pieces, could one become a truly great artist.

Motifs for his works (reliefs, statues, and busts) were drawn mostly from Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

, as well as works of classic art and literature. He created portraits of important personalities, as in his statue of Pope Pius VII
Pope Pius VII
Pope Pius VII , born Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti, was a monk, theologian and bishop, who reigned as Pope from 14 March 1800 to 20 August 1823.-Early life:...

. Thorvaldsen's statue of Pope Pius VII is found in the Clementine Chapel in the Vatican, for which he was the only non-Italian artist to ever have been commissioned to produce a piece. Unfortunately because he was not a catholic but a Protestant, the church did not allow him to sign his work. This led to the story of Thorvaldsen sculpting his own face on to the shoulders of the Pope, however any comparison between Thorvaldsen's portrait and the sculpture will show that this is just a fanciful story built on some smaller similarities.

His works can be seen in many European countries, especially in the Thorvaldsens Museum
Thorvaldsens Museum
The Thorvaldsen Museum is a single-artist museum in Copenhagen, Denmark, dedicated to the art of Danish neoclassicistic sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen , who lived and worked in Rome for most of his life . The museum is located on the small island of Slotsholmen in central Copenhagen next to...

 in Copenhagen, where his tomb is in the inner courtyard. Thorvaldsen's Lion Monument
Lion Monument
The Lion Monument , or the Lion of Lucerne, is a sculpture in Lucerne, Switzerland, designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen and hewn in 1820–21 by Lukas Ahorn...

(1819) is in Lucerne
Lucerne
Lucerne is a city in north-central Switzerland, in the German-speaking portion of that country. Lucerne is the capital of the Canton of Lucerne and the capital of the district of the same name. With a population of about 76,200 people, Lucerne is the most populous city in Central Switzerland, and...

, Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

. This monument commemorates the sacrifice of more than six hundred Swiss Guard
Swiss Guard
Swiss Guards or Schweizergarde is the name given to the Swiss soldiers who have served as bodyguards, ceremonial guards, and palace guards at foreign European courts since the late 15th century. They have had a high reputation for discipline, as well as loyalty to their employers...

s who died defending the Tuileries during the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

. The monument portrays a dying lion lying across broken symbols of the French monarchy.

Thorvaldsen produced some striking and affecting statue
Statue
A statue is a sculpture in the round representing a person or persons, an animal, an idea or an event, normally full-length, as opposed to a bust, and at least close to life-size, or larger...

s of historic figures, including two in Warsaw
Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

, Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

: an equestrian statue of Prince Józef Poniatowski
Józef Antoni Poniatowski
Prince Józef Antoni Poniatowski was a Polish leader, general, minister of war and army chief, who became a Marshal of France.-Early Austrian years and war with Turkey:...

 that now stands before the Presidential Palace
Presidential Palace, Warsaw
The Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, is the elegant classicist latest version of a building that has stood on the Krakowskie Przedmieście site since 1643. Over the years, it has been rebuilt and remodeled many times...

; and the seated Nicolaus Copernicus
Nicolaus Copernicus
Nicolaus Copernicus was a Renaissance astronomer and the first person to formulate a comprehensive heliocentric cosmology which displaced the Earth from the center of the universe....

, before the Polish Academy of Sciences
Polish Academy of Sciences
The Polish Academy of Sciences, headquartered in Warsaw, is one of two Polish institutions having the nature of an academy of sciences.-History:...

 building—both located on Warsaw's Krakowskie Przedmieście
Krakowskie Przedmiescie
Krakowskie Przedmieście is one of the most impressive and prestigious streets of Poland's capital.Several other Polish cities also have streets named Krakowskie Przedmieście. In Lublin, it is the main and most elegant street...

. A replica of the Copernicus statue was cast in bronze and installed in 1973 on Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

's lakefront along Solidarity Drive in the city's Museum Campus. A statue of Johannes Gutenberg by Thorvaldsen can be seen in Mainz
Mainz
Mainz under the Holy Roman Empire, and previously was a Roman fort city which commanded the west bank of the Rhine and formed part of the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire...

, Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

.

Outside Europe, Thorvaldsen is less well known. However, in 1896 an American textbook writer wrote that his statue of the resurrected Christ
Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

, commonly referred to as Thorvaldsen's Christus (created for Vor Frue Kirke
Church of Our Lady (Copenhagen)
The Church of Our Lady is the cathedral of Copenhagen and the National Cathedral of Denmark. It is situated on Vor Frue Plads and next to the main building of the University of Copenhagen....

), was "considered the most perfect statue of Christ in the world." The statue has appealed to the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a 3.4 m replica is on display at Temple Square
Temple Square
Temple Square is a ten acre complex located in the center of Salt Lake City, Utah, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . In recent years, the usage of the name has gradually changed to include several other church facilities immediately adjacent to Temple Square...

 in Salt Lake City. There is also a replica of this statue in the LDS Visitors' Center in Mesa, Arizona, and in the Los Angeles Temple Visitor's Center [Santa Monica](in fact, Thorvaldsen was member of these church and freemason; there is a lodge under The Ancient Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons
of Denmark, that is called "820 Bertel Torvaldsen too the hope" located in Horsens Denmark.). and images of the statue are used in official church media, such as the Internet site LDS.org. The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland also houses a full-size replica of the statue within its iconic dome. A full-sized copy in bronze is located in the Ben H. Powell III family plot in Oakwood Cemetery in Huntsville, Texas as a memorial to the Powell's son Rawley.

Thorvaldsen's Christus was recreated in Lego
Lego
Lego is a line of construction toys manufactured by the Lego Group, a privately held company based in Billund, Denmark. The company's flagship product, Lego, consists of colorful interlocking plastic bricks and an accompanying array of gears, minifigures and various other parts...

 by parishioners of a Swedish Protestant church and unveiled on Easter
Easter
Easter is the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Day or Easter Sunday...

 Sunday 2009.

Thorvaldsen's primary mastery was his feel for the rhythm of lines and movements. Nearly all his sculptures can be viewed from whatever angle without compromise of their impact. In addition, he had the ability to work in monumental size. Thorvaldsen's classicism was strict; nevertheless his contemporaries saw his art as the ideal, although afterwards art took new directions. A bronze copy of Thorvaldsen's Self-Portrait stands in Central Park
Central Park
Central Park is a public park in the center of Manhattan in New York City, United States. The park initially opened in 1857, on of city-owned land. In 1858, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux won a design competition to improve and expand the park with a plan they entitled the Greensward Plan...

, New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

, near the East 97 Street entrance.

External links