The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

Thorvaldsen's Works, Prices

Prices

The lists below provide an overview of sample prices for Thorvaldsen’s works throughout his career. The samples used are mainly of works in marble.
The lists are organized by the following categories of artworks:
  • Statues
  • Reliefs and friezes
  • Larger commissions
  • Portrait busts
  • Busts carved after classical models
  • Plaster casts

As a matter of course, the prices of Thorvaldsen’s sculptures were proportional to their size. These proportional calculations were made on an entirely concrete basis: namely, the costs of materials and production were combined to yield a basic sum, which was then adjusted to the size of the artwork at issue. Thorvaldsen described the principles he used for calculating prices in a letter dated 18.6.1806, from Rome to Denmark, containing a list of prices for his various types of artworks.
For statues, Thorvaldsen’s prices were based closely on the Roman palmi, a unit of length. 1 palmo corresponded to about nine inches, or 22.3 cm; on this see the Related Article on Weights and Measures. The taller a statue was, the higher its price. On the other hand, the increase in a statue’s price was not necessarily directly proportional to its height, as a statue also grows in width and depth when it becomes taller. For example: in 1806, a Thorvaldsen statue with a height of 6 palmi cost 600 scudi, while one of 10 palmi—that is, not even twice as tall—cost more than three times as much, namely, 2000 scudi.
For reliefs, the price was determined first by the number of main figures in the scene to be depicted, and then by how tall the figures and the relief as a whole were to be. The relief Briseis and Achilles, cf. A490, which Thorvaldsen had sold in marble to Theodor von der Ropp in 1805, cost a total of 550 scudi, i.e., 110 scudi per figure of ca. 4½ palmi each.
For larger commissions, the price was set following a concrete estimate. Busts appear to have been divided into two main price categories: those in “slightly more than life-size,” as it was then called, i.e., ca. 50-60 cm tall, and those in colossal size, i.e., 70-80 cm tall.

With regard to Thorvaldsen’s personal income, he would ordinarily charge the same amount for himself as he did for the costs of materials and production, so that he took home ca. 50% of the work’s total sales price. On this see the Related Article Thorvaldsen’s Works, Setting Prices.

As a rule, Thorvaldsen set his prices in the Roman currency scudi; on this see the Related Article Monetary Units.

Finally, payment was normally agreed to be made in installments. On this see the Related Article Thorvaldsen’s Works, Payment in Installments.

Price increases

The prices for Thorvaldsen’s works rose in tandem with the sculptor’s growing fame. An increase is already evident between his earliest commissions, in 1803, and the price list that he produced in 1806. As is evident from the lists below, Jason, at a height of 11 palmi, cost 1320 scudi in 1803, while a statue of only 10 palmi in height would have fetched 2000 scudi in 1806. In 1818, the merely (ca.) 8 palmi tall Maria Fjodorovna Barjatinskaja cost 3000 scudi.
A statue of 6 palmi in height cost 400 scudi in 1804, 600 scudi in 1808, and 800 scudi in 1809. A similar price increase can also be observed for Thorvaldsen’s reliefs, as can be seen in the examples below.

Nevertheless, by comparison with the prices for Antonio Canova’s sculptures, Thorvaldsen’s artworks were quite cheap. According to a letter dated 30.1.1807 from Thorvaldsen’s friend C.F. Høyer, Canova received 36,000 scudi in 1807 for four marble statues of 8 palmi in height, i.e., 9,000 scudi/statue. In 1806, Thorvaldsen accepted 1,000 scudi for a similar statue—so Canova was nine times as expensive as Thorvaldsen at that point.

Statues

Year Work Price Size Notes Sources
1803 Jason, A822 1320 scudi 242 cm = 11 palmi   Contract dated ca. 21.3.1803
1804 Cupid and Psyche, cf. A28 800 piastre (= ca. 800 scudi) 134.5 cm = “palmi Sei Romani” [six Roman palmi] Part of Vorontsova’s Commission Contract dated February 1804
1804 Bacchus, cf. A2 400 piastre (= ca. 400 scudi) 140 cm = “palmi Sei Romani” [six Roman palmi] Part of Vorontsova’s Commission Contract dated February 1804
1804 Ganymede, cf. A41 400 piastre (= ca. 400 scudi) 135.7 cm = “palmi Sei Romani” [six Roman palmi] Part of Vorontsova’s Commission Contract dated February 1804
1804 Apollo, cf. A3 400 scudi 144 cm = “palmi Sei Romani” [six Roman palmi] Part of Vorontsova’s Commission Letter dated 5.3.1804
1804 Venus, cf. A12 400 scudi ca. 133 cm = “palmi Sei Romani” [six Roman palmi] Part of Vorontsova’s Commission Letter dated 5.3.1804
1805 Venus, cf. A12 400 scudi ca. 133 cm = 6 palmi Part of Ropp’s Commission List probably dated 30.12.1810
1806 Hebe, cf. A37 600 scudi 153 cm = “sex til syv Romerske Palmer” [six to seven Roman palmi] Otto Reedtz-Thott’s Commission of Hebe, 1806 Contract dated 26.5.1806
1806 A standard statue 600 scudi 133.8 cm = “6 Palmers Høide” [six palmi in height] From Thorvaldsen’s general price list Letter dated 18.6.1806
1806 A standard statue 800 scudi 156.1 cm = “7 Palmers Høide” [seven palmi in height] From Thorvaldsen’s general price list Letter dated 18.6.1806
1806 A standard statue 1,000 scudi 178.4 cm = “8 Palmers Høide” [eight palmi in height] From Thorvaldsen’s general price list Letter dated 18.6.1806
1806 A standard statue 2,000 scudi 223 cm = “10 Palmers Høide” [ten palmi in height] From Thorvaldsen’s general price list Letter dated 18.6.1806
1809 Psyche, cf. A26 600 piastre (= ca. 600 scudi) 131.7 cm / “2 Al: 4 tom” [2 ells, 4 inches] From the price list sent by Thorvaldsen to the Building Commission for Christiansborg Palace Letter dated 4.2.1809
1809 Venus, cf. A12 500 piastre (= ca. 500 scudi) ca. 130 cm / “2 Al: 4 tom” [2 ells, 4 inches] From the price list sent by Thorvaldsen to the Building Commission for Christiansborg Palace Letter dated 4.2.1809
1809 Cupid and Psyche, cf. A28 1000 piastre (= ca. 1000 scudi) 134.5 cm = “2 Al: 3 tom” [2 ells, 3 inches] From the price list sent by Thorvaldsen to the Building Commission for Christiansborg Palace Letter dated 4.2.1809
1809 Cupid Holding a Butterfly 800 scudi 6 palmi Commissioned by Theodor von Hahn Contract dated 20.8.1809
1812 Caryatid, A55 and Caryatid, A56, plus plinths etc. 1000 scudi each 203.6 cm and 202.5 cm, respectively = ca. 9 palmi For a monument to Napoleon in Poland Contract dated 23.12.1812
1818 Maria Fjodorovna Barjatinskaja, A171 3000 scudi Ca. 8 palmi = 181 cm, “Grandeur naturelle” [natural size]   Contract dated 4.8.1818
1823 Shepherd Boy, cf. A177 2000 scudi 148,5 cm Commissioned by Franz Erwein Damian Joseph von Schönborn-Wiesentheid Letter dated 25.1.1823
1828 Cupid with his Bow, cf. A819 100 “Luigi d’oro” [Louis d’or] 4.5 palmi = 100.3 cm For Michael Shaw Stewart Receipt dated 17.4.1828

Reliefs and friezes

Year Work Price Size Notes Sources
1805 Briseis and Achilles, cf. A490 550 scudi / 110 scudi per figure 116×236.5 cm, 5 figures each of ca. 4½ palmi in height Part of Ropp’s Commission List probably dated 30.12.1810
1806 A standard relief 100 scudi per main figure Each main figure 2½ palmi / 55,75 cm in height I Basrelief koster hver Hovedfigur som er 2 1/2 Palme 100 Scudi” [In bas-relief, each main figure, at 2½ palmi in height, costs 100 scudi]:
From Thorvaldsen’s general price list
Letter dated 18.6.1806
1808 Hector with Paris and Helen, cf. A499 255 scudi / 85 scudi per figure 3×4 palmi = 67×89 cm / 3 figures De Balck’s commission, which had originally been for a different motif Contract dated 16.4.1808
Letter presumably from October 1810
1811 Monument to Auguste Böhmer, A701, A702, A703 At least 150 carolins = ca. 600 scudi 77.6×45.7 cm / 1 figure,
77.5×63 cm / 2 figures,
77.5×45 cm / 1 figure
  Letter dated 18.8.1811
Letter dated 25.2.1812
Letter dated 24.9.1814
1813 Monument to Johann Philipp Bethmann-Holweg, A615,1 A615,2, and A615,3 900 scudi 90×140 cm / 3 figures
89.5×93.5 cm / 3 figures
90×97.5 cm / 2 figures
  Contract dated 25.5.1813
1818 Christ Assigns the Leadership of the Church to Saint Peter, A565 1100 “in moneta d’Oro, ed’Argento” [in coins of gold and silver] 62.5×179.5 cm / 12 figures   Contract dated 15.12.1818
1818 Monument to Stanislaus Chaudoir’s Wife, jf. A624 1000 scudi 122,5×96,0 cm / 2 figures   Contract dated 12.6.1818
1823 Cupid with a Swan and Boys picking Fruit, Summer, cf. A411, and 200 scudi 52,2×69,5 cm Commissioned by Franz Erwein Damian Joseph von Schönborn-Wiesentheid Letter dated 25.1.1823
1823 Cupid and Bacchus, Autumn, cf. A413 200 scudi 50×69 cm Commissioned by Franz Erwein Damian Joseph von Schönborn-Wiesentheid Letter dated 25.1.1823
1835 Monument to the two Poninski children, cf. A616 2000 scudi 172×240 cm / 4 figures   Contract dated 27.4.1835

Larger commissions

Year Work Price Size Notes Sources
1817-18 Józef Poniatowski, cf. A123 12,000 scudi (reportedly equivalent to 3,000 sequiner) 463 cm According to Lord Minto’s diary, entry dated 7.1.1822, Thorvaldsen told him that he had received 3,000 sequins for the equestrian statue. The 1818 contract, however, lists only the payment in scudi. Contract dated 8.7.1818
Letter dated 15.5.1817
1818 Dying Lion (The Lucerne Lion), cf. A119, and see the completed work(Dying Lion (The Lucerne Lion), Lucerne, Switzerland) 300 scudi 84×161 cm The price was considered very low, and the assignment a special one, as Thorvaldsen was only supposed to deliver the plaster model, and not be responsible for the much larger completed version of the statue. Letters dated 8.8.1818 and 7.9.1818
1820 Nicolaus Copernicus, cf. A113 2,000 “ducats hollandois” [ducats of the Netherlands] 277.2 cm   Contract dated 30.9.1820
1825 Monument to Eugène de Beauharnais, cf. A156, and see the completed work 16,000 “Piastre Romane” [Roman piasters] Four figures in all; the main figure: 275 cm = ca. 12.3 palmi, two reliefs, and the architectural frame   Contract dated 8.2.1825
1831 Maximilian 1., cf. A128, and see the completed work 9000 scudi 522.5 cm   Contract dated 27.2.1830

Portrait busts

Year Work Price Size Notes Sources
1804 Ivan Vorontsov?, A302 Presumably 200 scudi 53 cm Part of Vorontsova’s Commission Contract dated February 1804
1804 Ivanovna Golitsyna, A304 Presumably 200 scudi 73 cm Part of Vorontsova’s Commission Contract dated February 1804
1805-
1806
Jacob Baden, A863 200 rigsdaler = ca. 50 ducats, reportedly equivalent to ca. 100 scudi: half the normal price, according to Thorvaldsen 54.8 cm Thorvaldsen: “jeg faaer 100 Dukater for et Protrait lidt over naturlig Størrelse, og troer ikke at kunde giøre dette ringere ensom 200r Dansk, som bliver lidet over det halv af hvad jeg ellers faaer, da vor Kurs staaer saa slet” [I fetch 100 ducats for a portrait a little larger than natural size, and do not think I can produce it any more cheaply than for 200 Danish r[igsdaler], which is a little more than half of what I normally receive, as our exchange rate is so poor] Letter dated 29.12.1804
Letter dated 28.7.1805
1806 A standard bust 200 scudi lidet over naturlig Størrelse” [a little larger than natural size] From Thorvaldsen’s general price list Letter dated 18.6.1806
Letter dated 18.11.1806
1807 Henrik Hielmstierne, A210 200 scudi 53.7 cm = “lidet over naturlig Størrelse” [a little larger than natural size]   Letter dated 20.5.1807
1807 Jacob Laurids Thrane, Dep.36 100 scudi 58.5 cm Thrane received his bust at a special price for friends, “half” the normal price. Letter dated after 6.6.1807
1823 Busts carved by Thorvaldsen and sold without a discount 100 Louis d’or Unknown From Thorvaldsen’s general description of his prices Draft letter dated 29.4.1823

Busts carved after classical models

Year Work Price Size Notes Sources
1804-
1810
Jupiter 100 scudi 80 cm = colossal bust Part of Ropp’s Commission List probably dated 30.12.1810
1804-
1810
Apollo Belvedere 60 scudi 74 cm Part of Ropp’s Commission List probably dated 30.12.1810
1804-
1810
Bacchus 60 scudi 72.3 cm Part of Ropp’s Commission List probably dated 30.12.1810
1804-
1810
Melpomene 50 scudi 66 cm Part of Ropp’s Commission List probably dated 30.12.1810
1804-
1810
Homer, cf. A751 60 scudi 64 cm, presumably similar to A751 + pedestal Part of Ropp’s Commission List probably dated 30.12.1810
1804-
1810
Cicero 50 scudi 56.5 cm Part of Ropp’s Commission List probably dated 30.12.1810
1804-
1810
Venus 40 scudi 50.5 cm Part of Ropps Commission List probably dated 30.12.1810
1804-
1810
Sappho 50 scudi 51 cm Part of Ropp’s Commission List probably dated 30.12.1810
1806 A standard bust 60-100 scudi kolosalsk” [colossal] From Thorvaldsen’s general price list Letter dated 18.6.1806
1806 Socrates 60 scudi 49.7 cm From Thorvaldsen’s general price list Letter dated 18.6.1806
See also the Related Article Busts of Socrates and Apollo 1805-06
1806 Apollo Giustiniani 80 scudi 62 cm From Thorvaldsen’s general price list Letter dated 18.6.1806
See also the Related Article Busts of Socrates and Apollo 1805-06
1808 Homer, cf. A751 70 scudi Presumably similar to A751 + pedestal, i.e., ca. 64 cm, like the Homer listed above De Balck’s commission Contract dated 16.4.1808
Letter presumably from October 1810

Plaster casts

Year Work Price Size Notes Sources
1806 A standard statue 60 scudi for shaping the statue + 10 scudi for each casting 133.8 cm = “6 Palmer” [6 palmi] From Thorvaldsen’s general price list Letter dated 18.6.1806
1827 Christ, cf. A82, and the twelve apostles, cf. Peter, A86, Matthew, A87, John, A89, James the Less, A91, Philip, A93, Thomas, A96, James the Greater, A98, Bartholomew, A99, Simon Zelotes, A101, Paul, A103, Jude Thaddaeus, A105, and Andrew, A108 2,700 Roman scudi in total Letter dated 10.4.1827 from the Building Commission for the Church of Our Lady, Copenhagen til Thorvaldsen

References

Last updated 03.03.2017