This site is a documentation centre on Bertel Thorvaldsen and his art. The Archives can potentially hold any form of written source material relating to the sculptor.
Presently the Archives primarily holds transcripts of all documents left by Thorvaldsen and preserved today at the Thorvaldsens Museum. They are mainly letters to, from and about the sculptor, but even other types of documents are published here, see The Term Document below.
The bulk of the material was uncovered in Rome just after the death of Thorvaldsen; see History of the Archives for more on this.
Apart from the material found in Rome, the Archives holds other documents with different provenances: Since its founding the Thorvaldsens Museum has strived to expand the amount of written source material on the artist through acquisitions and donations. Throughout the years the museum has also acquired copies or transcripts of other written sources in both Danish and foreign archives. Furthermore, the library at the Thorvaldsens Museum holds a number of smaller, relatively unknown printed texts, poems etc.
All of this varied source material kept today at the Thorvaldsens Museum is published here in transcripts.
The term “document” is here defined as a contemporary, handwritten or printed source that contain information on the activities of Thorvaldsen. Thus the term covers many different types of written primary sources from the time of the artist. As mentioned most of the documents are letters, but there are also poems, articles on Thorvaldsen, workshop accounts, lists of art works, notes, travel permits, recommendations, memos, and many other types of written sources on the life and works of Thorvaldsen.
In the commentaries to each document its kind is clearly stated.
For information regarding copyright for the texts in the Archives and conditions governing quotations, please see Copyright.
The Archives is divided into six main categories:
Documents, Chronology, Persons, Subjects, Related Articles, and About.
The first four categories constitute the central, source-based parts of the Archives, while Related Articles examine the sources in many different ways, and About contains practical information such as How to Use the Archives, Editorial Principles, and an article on the historical background of the Archives.
The six main categories are always shown at the top of each page, enabling you quickly to find your bearings and to navigate wherever you want to go. A click on a main category will bring related sub-categories into view.
The ocherous coloured marking of a category or sub-category indicates that you are in this category.
The main categories of the Archives are knitted together by means of tens of thousands of links that can quickly take you to supplementary information in other categories.
If you would like a more detailed explanation of the considerations behind the first structuring of the Archives in 2006, you can read more in the article New Order (in Danish) and also below under The Design of the Archives.
The front page of the Archives is the central search page, where you can search in all the main categories simultaneously. The search result for the category Documents is shown at the front page below, while links will direct you to search results in the other categories.
Furthermore, there is a separate search field in every main category.
The search function on the front page will provide you with both simple and advanced searches, and it is as made self-explanatory and user-friendly as possible. However, if you need help, or wish to see some of the more advanced search possibilities demonstrated, please read Search Tips below.
A direct link to these is also to be found at the top right in all search pages.
Under the category of Documents you can either search or browse through the source material: Either choose the front page to search for something specific, or browse the documents by choosing the page entitled The Documents Year by Year.
In both instances, and everywhere else in the Archives, documents are initially represented as square boxes containing a date link to the individual document page and the basic information relating to the document (sender, recipient and part of the document’s abstract).
Below follows an explanation to each of the fields shown at the individual document page.
The transcript is presented at the centre of the page on a pale grey background and with a different typography from the rest of the Archives. In this way there is a clear distinction between the original source document and the textual framework added by the editors.
If the text of the document has been translated, the translation can be obtained by clicking on [Translation] at the top right. To return to the original text, click again on [Translation].
All source documents at the Thorvaldsens Museum have been scanned. These facsimiles have been added to the transcripts, and will pop up by clicking the button See the Original at the upper left above the transcript.
The facsimile is presented in 300 dpi resolution, enabling close up studies, or controlling the accuracy of the transcript in detail. The Archives will happily receive any corrections, see Contact.
You can download the facsimile to your own computer for study purposes. If you wish to publish a reproduction of an original document – on the internet or in printed form – please contact the Archives. See also Copyright.
In the document text, passages commented on are marked in blue. A click on the marked text will show the commentary on the passage on the right hand side of the page. The commentary can be hidden again by clicking on the small cross in the top right corner.
The commentaries aim to treat the document text in a sober, objective manner. If a more interpretative analysis of a subject covering many documents has been written by the editors, you will by referred to a Related Article on the matter.
This distinction is a basic principle for the Archives: The commentaries will have a relatively more sober, descriptive character, while the Related Articles may have a more interpretative character.
The sender, date and recipient of the document are shown above the source text. Each of these fields is followed by a small blue cross [+]. A click on this will open information on respectively the place where the document was produced, information on the sender (for instance information on a seal or address), the basis for the dating and information on the place where the document was received as well as information on the recipient (for instance the address on a letter). This information can be removed by clicking again on the blue cross.
Immediately below the information on the sender, recipient and date of the document, there follows a brief abstract of the contents, providing the user with a quick overview.
Beneath the actual document text follows the General Comment, in which for instance ambiguities in the contents are clarified or the document is placed in its context.
Archival Reference indicates where the original document is to be found. If no name of an archive is indicated, the reference is to Thorvaldsens Museum.
Any amanuensis, i.e. a kind of secretary, see Document Type above, will appear in the field bearing that name. If the amanuensis in question requires further comments, these will be shown in the field Comment on amanuensis.
See also the related article on Thorvaldsen’s amanuensises.
Under the heading of Thiele there are references to Thorvaldsen’s first biographer Just Mathias Thiele’s volumes on the artist. The separate references to Thiele’s works are given because of their status as primary sources in the Thorvaldsen literature. Thiele was the first person systematically to examine and structure Thorvaldsen’s works and posthumous documents.Thiele’s four volume biography consist of:
These are referred to along the following lines:
Thiele I, p. 45; Thiele IV, p. 56-59.
Thiele’s earlier work, also in four volumes, Den danske Billedhugger Bertel Thorvaldsen og hans Værker (The Danish Sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen and his Works), 1831, 1832, 1848 and 1850 is referred to as for instance:
Thiele 1831, p. 76; Thiele 1848, p. 11.
See a comprehensive list of Thiele’s writing on Thorvaldsen here.
Other References lists references to the document found in other sources or in literature other than Thiele’s standard works.
The subjects touched upon in the document are listed under the heading of Subjects. Each subject links to the main category of Subjects, where you will find a list of all document attached to a specific subject.
Furthest down on the page presenting each document you will find small photographs of works on Thorvaldsens Museum mentioned in the document text. The photographs represent both works by Thorvaldsen and works by other artists in the museum collection. Each photograph links to a larger image and basic catalogue information on the specific work.
Regarding the works of Thorvaldsen a reference work at the museum is often shown, instead of the specific version of the work mentioned in the document. If for instance Thorvaldsen’s bronze statue of Johann Gutenberg in Mainz is referred to in the document text, the small photograph will render the plaster original at the Thorvaldsens Museum as the reference work.
If there is no information relating to the above-mentioned fields, then they are not shown.
The documents are arranged chronologically, and it is possible to move backwards and forwards between them by clicking on the arrows at the top right of the document page. The numbering – e.g. No. 34 of 8031 – indicates the position of the document in the general chronologically arranged main body of documents. This number is not to be understood as an archival term as the place of the individual document in the chronological sequence can be changed when further documents are uploaded to the Archives.
The archival whereabouts of the document is indicated under the heading of Archival Reference, see above.
In the main category Chronology a synchronological table is shown. The table is divided into four columns: Date, Events, Whereabouts and Works and thus documents what happened, where Thorvaldsen was located, and what he produced in every single year in his life and later.
The columns Events, Whereabouts and Works can be studied at the same time – synchronologically – or separately, allowing two, three or all four columns to be shown at a time.
The information in the Chronology is derived form the Documents in the Archives, and other primary sources. Thus it is an empirically based table of facts on all possible occurrences in the life of Thorvaldsen.
A click on the individual dates on the far left of the table will show the sources constituting the empirical basis for the chronological entry. Thus the Chronology presents both a comprehensive survey of the basic Thorvaldsen knowledge, and its roots. In this way the user will be able to check whether a given piece of information is founded on certainties, or whether it stems from not so reliable sources.
The purpose of the chronological table of facts is not just to present the basic information on Thorvaldsen in an easily accessible manner, but also to make this knowledge foundation transparent to the user.
In this manner the Chronology reflects a central purpose of the whole Archives.
NB many places in the individual chronological entries you will find no sources listed, or reference is made to only one printed source – often the works by Thiele on Thorvaldsen.
These shortcomings are due to the fact that not all documents in the Archives have been fully studied. However, each entry in the Chronology will eventually be furnished with references to primary sources.
Information deriving from Thiele’s four-volume biography on Thorvaldsen, 1851-56, is regarded as a primary source. Thiele knew the sculptor from his first visits in Rome to the 1820ies, and everything he reports could have been obtained from the sculptor himself – straight from the horse’s mouth. However, Thiele did not know the same source material as is accessible today. His information will be supplied and corrected if/when new sources will be examined.
The chronology is closely linked to Thorvaldsen’s life and oeuvre, but years after his death in 1844 are nevertheless included for the sake of Thorvaldsen related events or works that have taken place or been executed during this period.
The Chronology is pre-set to show one year at a time. You can click on the year wanted, or you can scroll through the years.
It is also possible to see a row of years simultaneously by clicking Time-Limits, and then choose an interval of years.
If you wish to see illustrations of the works Thorvaldsen produced in a given year, press the button see works, and small photographs will appear. Presently all the sculptural works of Thorvaldsen are included in the Chronology, while only a limited selection of his drawings is shown.
The main category Persons is an index of names including all persons and institutions to which reference is made in the source material of the Archives.
The index is arranged alphabetically. The biographies are primarily focused on the artistic, professional and/or personal relationship between Thorvaldsen and the person in question. This means that information on achievements and careers are only included insofar as they are relevant to our knowledge of Thorvaldsen or if it is thought to be difficult to find the information elsewhere.
For further information on generally known figures, you are kindly referred to biographical encyclopaedias. In the case of Danes, a standard reference would be Dansk Biografisk Leksikon, both in its 2nd edition and 3rd edition.
The factbox on the right hand side of the biography contains basic information on the person’s name, dates, nationality and profession.
In cases where the person’s name varies, both the customary and the full name are written along with possible variations of the spelling.
As the standard for spelling artists’ names, we conform to ULAN, the Union List of Artist Names apart from Danish artists, where we follow the spelling in Weilbachs Kunstnerleksikon. For Danes who are not artists, we use the spelling in Dansk Biografisk Leksikon. For other persons we conform to the name used by the most authoritative sources.
If documents in the Archives causes us to deviate from these norms, it will be stated clearly in the biography.
In order to make the search for the professions of persons in the biographies as complete as possible, the factbox only contains general terms for people’s professions – for instance painter instead of miniaturist. However, the more detailed biography compensates for this generalisation by specifying the person’s profession where this is considered necessary.
The main category Subjects is the subject index for the Archives. Under each separate subject word in the index it is indicated how many documents in the Archives relate to the subject. It can also be seen whether a related article is linked to the subject word.
A more detailed overview of the documents linked to the subject word emerges by clicking on the actual subject word. The overview shows the sender, recipient and abstract for each document and also possible links to related subject words and related articles.
The main category Related Articles are primarily concerned with subjects pertinent to several documents. The articles are different in character: Some are surveys or practical lists – i.e. Thorvaldsen’s appointments – some summarize the sources for a specific commission – i.e. Jason and the Hope commission – others present a particular subject in the Thorvaldsen sphere – i.e. The Hair of Thorvaldsen – while other may introduce a freer interpretation of a given phenomenon in the sources.
Consequently, the related articles are not of a strictly systematic nature. They aim to create an overview of subjects considered to be of particular interest or importance. Their purpose is to contextualize the individual document in a broader setting – or in other words to elevate the micro history of the document to a more macro historical level.
The related articles treat the material more freely and interpretatively than the more sober, objective commentaries in the individual documents.
In addition to the present How to Use the Archives, the main category About also contains Editorial Principles, an article on the History of the Archives, a list of Contributors, Acknowledgements, a page concerning Copyright, and a Contact page providing information on how to send comments or corrections to the Archives.
If you wish to print a document with its associated commentaries, you click on Print at the bottom right of the individual document page. On the other hand, if you only want the document text and the most basic information relating to it, i.e. the document as it appears on the screen, you should merely click on the browser print button.
The same distinction can be made in an individual related article – if you click on Print at the top right of the page, the article with associated commentaries will be printed. If you click on the browser’s print button, the article is printed as seen on the screen.
On certain pages there is no special need for a print function, and you should therefore use the browser print button.
No complete bibliography has been compiled of the literature used in the Archives. Instead, literature is listed in connection with the document or article in relation to which it is quoted.
This choice is made because a complete list of literature quoted would be far too long and offer contents of a highly disparate nature.
The library in the Thorvaldsens Museum constitutes the main source of the literature used, but apart from this there are countless references to other literature that is only indirectly concerned with Thorvaldsen. Further, there are references to unpublished material in other archives and to other homepages and databases on the Internet. The relevant references are specifically listed under the primary sources, and always accessible in a clear and usable form.
The Archives are full of links between documents, related articles, chronological entries and individual biographies. In certain cases, these links can lead to a document on which the commentary is not yet complete or to an unfinished related article.
These incomplete elements occur due to the fact that the processing of the source material in the Archives is an on-going project. During the work, it will for practical reasons be more efficient to establish these work-in-progress links to, for instance, a document in its “raw state” without commentary rather than no link at all. The Thorvaldsens Museum apologizes for these temporary deficiencies, and hope that this will merely further the desire to return to Archives again and again.
Everywhere in the Archives you may run into a type of number like A233. These numbers are the inventory numbers of the Thorvaldsens Museum, and succeed a title of a work of art. The numbers link to a separate window providing basic information on the specific work. From here there is a further link to the digital catalogue of the museum collections. In this manner you will always have the catalogue reference to a given work at hand, be it a work by Thorvaldsen or any other artist represented in the museum collection.
The layout of the Archives has been designed as clearly and simply as possible for two reasons: In a stylistic sense, the Archives can be placed in the wake of the cleansed form of Neo-Classicism of which Thorvaldsen was an exponent. In a practical sense, disturbing colours and elements have deliberately been avoided in order to make the site as comprehensible as possible.
Read more on the underlying principles for the initial structuring the Archives in 2006 in the article New Order (in Danish).
Apart from the scans of the original document images will rarely be shown on the page of each individual transcription. As a written primary source we have chosen to present the document text as soberly as possible both as regards to the lack of illustrations and the factual character of the commentaries.
However, at the bottom of each document page you will find small images of the works mentioned in the document text.
In the biographies and the related articles images are applied freely.
The three primary colours are used for internal links throughout the Archives. They are chosen in the first instance from Gottlieb Bindesbøll’s palette for the Thorvaldsens Museum and secondly on the basis of practical considerations required by a digital reproduction on screen.
The signature colour of the museum building, ochre, is used for links directing you to overall pages within the Archives. Within the six main categories at the top of each page, the marking indicates in what category of the Archives you are. Ochre is also used to mark functions such as print and resetting of search fields and also to indicate links leading to other overarching parts of the Archives. For instance, for showing documents from 1798, chronologies from the whole of 1803 or sub-categories within the category About the Archives.
Blue date links lead to documents in the primary main category of the Archives. Within the individual documents other blue links refer to commentaries – either in the form of a marked text or a [+].
Red links lead to further information from the following categories in the Archives: Chronology, Persons, Subjects and Related Articles.
Grey links lead to materials on homepages outside the Archives.
Dependent on browser settings, links already visited will either turn grey or retain their colour. In either case, they will still be active links. See more on this under browser settings below.
As the Archives are naturally very rich in text pieces, their appearance on the screen is important. We recommend that the screen should be set to the highest resolution and display the typography in clear type. However, there are great variations in what people find to give the best readability.
Clear type is a Windows based concept. It is chosen under Properties for screen, Appearance and Effects (in case of Windows XP). In older versions of Windows this is often called Smooth out fonts on Screen fonts and is chosen under Properties for screen under Effects.
The screen resolution in general is set to Properties for screen and Preferences, which appear with a right click on the desktop.
Mac users will normally not need to change screen settings.
The Archives work with all current browser versions but are in the first instance designed for Firefox, which is particularly to be recommended and can be downloaded free here.
If you want used links to change colour, you must set your browser to remember pages visited for at least one day. If you do not want this, the browser is set to 0 days. In most browsers, this is done by going to Functions and (Internet-) Preferences and then setting the time frame for the browser’s memory.
Generally speaking there are two ways of searching the material in the Archives: Either a simple free text search in all of the Archives, or an advanced search which will only produce hits in the main category Documents.
The easiest way to find something is to write a search word in the search field at the front page of the Archives. In the vast majority of cases this will be fully sufficient to obtain a satisfactory result.
This type of search will produce hits in all categories of the Archives – Documents, Chronology, Persons, Subjects and Related Articles. The search result for Documents is shown at the bottom of the front page, while links will lead you to search hits in the other categories.
There are free text search fields in each category of the Archives. A search here will only produce hits in the given category.
In all categories the free text search can be limited with the so-called Boolean operators AND, OR and NOT. To this is added wildcard searches using *. Here follows search examples in all of the categories of the Archives.
|Search||Result with link to search example|
|thetis||All places where Thetis appears|
|thetis gotskalk||All places where both Thetis and Gotskalk appear (corresponding to a search with AND, i.e. thetis AND gotskalk)|
|thetis OR gotskalk||All places where one or both words appear|
|abildgaard NOT nicolai||All places where Abildgaard, but not Nicolai appear|
|römisch*||All places where words beginning with römisch appear|
|*akademi||All places where words ending with akademi appear|
|*akad*||All places where the letters akad appear|
|“thorvaldsen asks”||All places where the phrase Thorvaldsen asks appears|
|a822||All places where the Thorvaldsens Museum inventory number A822 (= Jason with the Golden Fleece) appears|
There is no distinction between upper-case and lower-case letters.
Simple searches for words such as thetis, gotskalk or commission in the search field will, when you click on to the search result, provide
pale blue markings of the search word on the individual pages.
If the search word is in the comments to a document, the relevant place in the document text will be marked, so it can be seen in which comment the search word appears. If the search word is located in hidden texts on, for instance, the place from which a document was sent and the basis for dating, the small crosses at these fields will be marked in pale blue.
Search marking is shown exclusively on whole words and thus cannot be used in combination with *.
If you wish to remove the pale blue marking of the search result, this can be done by removing the last part of the URL address in the browser’s navigation line, i.e. from: ?highlight=…, after which you click on “enter”. The page will now be updated and the search marking will disappear.
Alternatively, you can click on to the next document – or back to the previous one – by using the circular arrow keys at the top right of the document page. You then click back to the desired document, and the search marking has now disappeared.
Apart from the free text search there are a number of advanced search possibilities on the front page of the Archives. These searches are only pertinent for the actual source documents, and thus will only produce hits in the main category, Documents.
The advanced search possibilities are made as self-explanatory as possible.
You can for instance limit the search by marking check boxes and/or use the pull down menus focusing on a period, a sender or a language, or quickly find something quite specific by combining several searches at the same time.
Below you will find examples of search possibilities.
If you click the field Search for Works only the search result will only produce hits in documents mentioning one of Thorvaldsen’s works or another work on the Thorvaldsens Museum.
NB This search will only produce hits, if a given work has actively been linked to a given document. As many documents have not been thoroughly examined yet, it is not certain that this kind of search will render a truthful result of the material in the Archives.
The search result will present small photographs of the works matching the search criteria, so you will quickly be able to see if need to adjust your search.
|Search||Result with link to search example|
|venus||All documents, to which works are linked whose title include the word venus.|
|venus mars||All documents, to which works are linked whose title include the words venus and mars.|
|lyre||All documents, to which works are linked whose title include the word lyre.|
|a212||All documents, in which Thorvaldsens Museum inventory number A212 is mentioned.|
All searches can be limited by a period searching, or the Time-Limit field can be used alone.
Dates are written as: day.month.year divided by full stop and without a space between or superfluous noughts, for instance: 31.12.1799 or 1.5.1805. It is also sufficient merely to give the month.year or the year alone, as for instance: 10.1824 or 1835.
|Search||Result with link to search example|
|From: 1843||All documents from and 1843 and thereafter|
|To: 1801||All documents up to and including 1801|
| From: 1797
|All documents from the period 1797-1800|
| From: 1.8.1833
|All documents from the period 1 of August 1833 to the end of May 1835|
|Search||Result with link to search example|
|Sender: Thorvaldsen, Gotskalk||All documents from Gotskalk Thorvaldsen|
|Language of document: English||All documents in English|
| Recipient: Abildgaard, Nicolai
Document type: Document, autograph
|All autograph documents from Thorvaldsen to Nicolai Abildgaard|
| Sender: Thorvaldsen, Bertel
Language of document: Italian
|All documents sent by Thorvaldsen in Italian|
| Recipient: Thorvaldsen, Bertel
Sender’s nationality: British
|All documents sent to Thorvaldsen from Brits|
NB The search field should always be filled in when using the check boxes.
|Search||Result with link to search example|
|præst with Occupation checked||All documents in which clergymen (præster) appear as senders or recipients|
|præst with Sender and Occupation checked||All documents in which clergymen (præster) appear as senders|
|stuttgart with Sender’s location checked||All documents sent from Stuttgart|
|münchen with Sender’s location and Recipient’s location checked||All documents sent from and received in München / Munich|
If you search as in the three examples below both with several checked boxes and several words at a time, the words in the search field must be separated by “OR”.
|malta OR m1 with Sender’s location and Archival reference checked||All documents sent from Malta and placed in the physical archives under m1|
|maler OR rom with Occupation and Recipient’s location checked||All documents sent by or to a painter (maler) and received in Rome|
|rom OR abild* with Sender’s location and Recipient checked||All documents sent from Rome and received by persons whose names start with abild|
The various types of searches can also be combined in numerous ways in order to limit the search further. Please note that the search field must always be filled in when using the check boxes.
|Search||Result with link to search example|
| Search field: kunstakad*
Time-Limit: From: 1793 To: 1820
Recipient: Thorvaldsen, Bertel from index
|All documents to Thorvaldsen in the period 1793-1820 containing a word starting with kunstakad|
| Search field: arkæolog
Recipient: Thorvaldsen, Bertel from index
Sender’s nationality: Danish
Check box: Occupation
|All documents from Danish archaeologists (arkæologer) to Thorvaldsen|
| Search field: københavn
Time-Limit: From: 1838 To: 1844
Sender: Thorvaldsen, Bertel from index
Check box: Sender’s location
|All documents from Thorvaldsen sent from Copenhagen (København) between 1838 and 1844|
When using the free text search field on the front page of the Archives the search word are most often marked in pale blue. This does not always happen when using the advanced searches.
If – for instance – you fill in the search field for a profession, a nationality, a life span or a name (for instance sculptor, Icelandic, 1743-1809 or Abraham) it may happen that no search word has been marked on a page, even though the search produced a result.
This apparent confusion occurs because these four qualities through the biography are linked to the person who appears as the sender or recipient of the document. The search word therefore does not appear directly in the document, but in the information linked to the person or to the relevant biography. This structure enables more advanced searches in nationality and profession as shown in the examples above.
If you wish to save your search results, you are recommended to copy and save the URL address in the browser’s navigation line and then insert it when you wish to visit these results again. If fresh material matching the search criteria has been added to the Archives in the meantime, this will automatically be shown when re-inserting the URL.
Translation by Glyn Jones (revised)
Last updated 08.02.2013