The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

Transportation of Thorvaldsen's Artworks to Copenhagen 1825

  • Nanna Kronberg Frederiksen, arkivet.thorvaldsensmuseum.dk, 2013
  • Translation by David Possen
  • The majority of Thorvaldsen’s artworks and art collections were transported from Rome to Copenhagen with ships of the Danish fleet during the years between 1825 and 1845. This article discusses the first large shipment, in 1825, which involved a number of commissions for the Danish royal family, Christiansborg Palace, the Academy of Fine Arts, and more.

The transportation process

The artworks are ready for shipment

By 1824, Thorvaldsen had put the finishing touches on many of the large commissions that he had received during his stay in Denmark in 1819-1820. The works that were then complete and ready for transportation back to Denmark included his commission for the Danish royal family, parts of his commission for Christiansborg Palace, as well as parts of his commission for The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.

The prospect of bringing such a large number of Thorvaldsen’s artworks to Denmark was welcomed widely. Previously, only very few examples of the famous Dane’s works had been available for viewing in his native land. Now numerous Danes took to the sea—quite literally—to ensure the success of this shipment.

The king’s lines of command

When Prince Christian (8.) Frederik reported to King Frederik 6. that their large commissions from Thorvaldsen were ready for retrieval, Frederik 6. immediately ordered the Danish navy’s Admirality and Commissary College to land the brig St. Croix at either Naples or Leghorn, where it was to be loaded with crates containing Thorvaldsen’s artworks.

The brig St. Croix was at that point in the Danish West Indies, guarding the sea and trading lanes for travelers to and from Europe. The order by Frederik 6. dictated that the brig’s return trip via the Mediterranean include stays of no more than 14 days at each port of call, in order to minimize the costs of this “little” detour.

Captain Martinus Christian de Klauman and the Danish Governor-General of the Danish West Indies, Johan Frederik Bardenfleth, were informed of the new sailing orders at approximately the same time as Thorvaldsen learned—via letters from Christian Frederik and his private secretary Johan Gunder Adler—which artworks they wished him to send (though not all of these wishes were fulfilled), along with the expected time and place of the brig’s arrival.

From the Danish West Indies to Italy

Captain Klauman was requested to set sail from the Danish West Indies on March 1, 1825, and was expected to arrive in Italy five to six weeks later. The brig’s departure was delayed, however, because of pirate activity in the seas surrounding the Danish West Indies—a problem well-known to the many trade ships plying that route.

Klauman og Bardenfleth, however, chose to fight the pirates before departing—which took a good month and a half. Klauman finally set sail on 15.4.1825, reaching Naples on 3.6.1825 and Leghorn on 23.6.1825.

From Rome to Leghorn

The German-Danish sculptor Hermann Ernst Freund, who worked for Thorvaldsen in Rome, was asked by Prince Christian Frederik, via Johan Gunder Adler, to supervise the practical work of packing the many artworks in crates and transporting them from Rome to Leghorn.

The latter conveyance was done by water. The crates were sailed down the Tiber river to the harbor town of Ostia. From here they continued north to Leghorn, presumably on the coastal ship L’Anime del Purgatorio.

Freund, who had departed from Rome on 10.5.1825—out of sync with the brig’s altered schedule, which had changed on account of the pirates—already reached Leghorn on 25.5.1825. Here, with the help of the Danish consul general in Leghorn, J. C. Ulrich, Freund managed to deposit the crates for storage in a local warehouse. He then proceeded to Pisa and Florence in order to await the brig St. Croix, which, as mentioned, did not arrive in Leghorn until June 23, 1825.

The brig is loaded

The brig St. Croix was regrettably too small a ship to fit all of the 58 crates that Freund had brought from Rome. Among the types of ships then in use, naval warships were the largest, followed by frigates, corvettes, and barques. Brigs and schooners were among the smallest, as is evident from the number of cannons they carried. The brig St. Croix was loaded on 1.7.1825 with 52 crates. The crates containing Thorvaldsen’s delicate plaster casts were placed in the hold, while those carrying his more water-resistant marble works were placed on the deck in the open air, though sealed in impregnable burlap.

The crates that stayed behind

The remaining six crates were too large to fit through the hatch into the cargo hold, and so were returned to storage in the warehouse in Leghorn. Here they would remain to await the next shipment of artworks to Copenhagen, which took place three years later, in 1828. The contents of these six crates left behind were:

Crate no. Artwork, Material Owner Previous Owner
25 or no. 29 Cupid and the Graces, plaster cast Unknown, cf. A29 Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen
25 or no. 29 Jelizaveta Aleksejevna Osterman-Tolstaja, plaster cast Unknown, cf. A167 Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen
31, 34, or 36 Various reliefs Unknown Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen
53, 54, and/or 55 (two crates) Hermann Ernst Freund, Mercury, plaster model National Gallery of Denmark, inv. no. KMS5001 Building Commission for Christiansborg Palace
59 Private items Unknown Hans Christian Holten

In addition, Freund had to leave four additional crates behind in a warehouse in Rome. These included, among other things, plaster casts of the so-called Aeginans, restored by Thorvaldsen.

Jubilation in Copenhagen

Klauman set sail from Leghorn on 2.7.1825. On the same date, Freund sent a checked-off shipment manifest to Thorvaldsen. The brig St. Croix put in to port in Copenhagen’s harbor on 10.9.1825. The crates were then upacked, and Johan Gunder Adler reported to Thorvaldsen on 24.9.1825 that most of the artworks had arrived in good condition, with the exception of certain plaster casts, particularly the statue of Hebe, A39, which had suffered some damage.

The majority of the shipped artworks were displayed in an exhibition at the Academy of Fine Arts in April 1826. Here a Danish audience could, for the first time—and with great jubilation—make direct acquaintance with Thorvaldsen’s art.

Information about the shipment

Rome-Leghorn: 10.5.1825-25.5.1825
Departed Leghorn: 2.7.1825
Arrived Copenhagen: 10.9.1825
Ship: The brig St. Croix
Captain: Martinus Christian de Klauman
Crew members: Chief mate Hans Fisker
Passengers:
Number of crates: 52
Shipment manifest: 2.7.1825
Documents related to the shipment: Transportation of Thorvaldsen’s Artworks to Copenhagen 1825
Chronology: Transportation of Thorvaldsen’s Artworks to Copenhagen 1825
Overview of all shipments to Copenhagen, 1798-1845: Transportation of Thorvaldsen’s Artworks to Copenhagen

The artworks transported to Copenhagen

The artworks transported to Copenhagen have been identified by collating information from a variety of sources: partly from the correspondence surrounding the shipment, particularly the shipment manifest dated July 2, 1825; and partly from Fortegnelse over de ved det Kongelige Academie for de skjönne Kunster offentligen udstillede Kunstværker [List of Artworks Exhibited to the Public by the Royal Academy of Fine Arts], Copenhagen 1826, cat. nos. 144-183.
Nevertheless, certain obscurities remain.

For the Building Commission for Christiansborg Palace

Crate no. Artwork, Material Owner Previous Owner
1 Hercules and Hebe, marble version Christiansborg Palace, cf. A317 Christiansborg Palace
2 Hygieia and Aesculapius, marble version Christiansborg Palace, cf. A318 Christiansborg Palace
3 Minerva and Prometheus, marble version Christiansborg Palace, cf. A319 Christiansborg Palace
4 Nemesis and Jupiter, marble version Christiansborg Palace, cf. A320 Christiansborg Palace
16, 17, 18, and 19 Hermann Ernst Freund: The Apostle Luke, marble version Christiansborg Palace Church Christiansborg Palace Church

For Frederik 6.

Crate no. Artwork, Material Owner Previous Owner
Presumably 5 Frederik 6., marble version A859 Frederik 6.
Presumably 6 Marie Sophie Frederikke, marble version A860 Frederik 6.
Presumably 7 Caroline, marble version A857 Frederik 6.
Presumably 8 Vilhelmine, marble version 1 The Royal Shooting Society, cf. A194 Frederik 6.
Presumably 8 Vilhelmine, marble version 2 Glücksburg Castle, cf. A194 Frederik 6.
Presumably 8 Frederik (7.), marble version Rosenborg Castle, cf. A199 Frederik 6.
Presumably 9 Juliane Sophie, plaster cast Presumably identical to A202 Frederik 6.
Presumably 10 Friedrich Wilhelm Carl Ludwig, plaster cast Presumably identical to A201 Frederik 6.
12 Bertel Thorvaldsen, marble version Academy of Fine Arts, Academy Council, inv. no. KS445, cf. A223 Gift of Hans West to Frederik 6.
37 Artist unknown: Augustus, 1701-1800 National Gallery of Denmark, inv. no. KMS5639 Gift by Hans West to Frederik 6., on the false assumption that it was a classical marble bust of the Roman emperor Tiberius

For Christian (8.) Frederik

Crate no. Artwork, Material Owner Previous Owner
38 C. A. Jensen: Copy of Raphael’s Madonna of Foligno Ukendt Christian Frederik
Presumably 39 Christian (8.) Frederik, marble version Unknown, cf. presumably A197 Christian Frederik
Presumably 40 Caroline Amalie, marble version Unknown, cf. presumably A716 Christian Frederik
Presumably 41 Christian 8’s Table Decoration The Royal Danish Collections, Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen Christian Frederik
Presumably 42 Christian 8’s Table Decoration The Royal Danish Collections, Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen Christian Frederik
Presumably 43 Christian 8’s Table Decoration The Royal Danish Collections, Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen Christian Frederik

For Caroline Amalie

Crate no. Artwork, Material Owner Previous Owner
Presumably 13 Possibly a still-unidentified copy of a classical bust Caroline Amalie
Presumably 15 Possibly a still-unidentified copy of a classical bust Caroline Amalie
Presumably 62 Vittoria Caldoni, plaster cast Unknown, cf. A279 Caroline Amalie

For the Academy of Fine Arts

Crate no. Artwork, Material Owner Previous Owner
20 Hebe, plaster cast Presumably identical to A39 Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen
21 Cupid Triumphant, plaster cast Presumably identical to A22 Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen
22 Cupid and Psyche, plaster cast Unknown, cf. A28 Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen
23 Venus with the Apple, plaster cast Unknown, cf. A12 Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen
24 Mercury About to Kill Argus, plaster cast (of the version without the hat) Unknown, cf. A5 Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen
26 Georgiana Elizabeth Russell, plaster cast Presumably identical to A173 Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen
27 Ganymede with Jupiter’s Eagle, plaster cast Presumably identical to A45 Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen
28 Ganymede Filling the Cup, plaster cast Presumably identical to A43 Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen
30 Shepherd Boy, plaster cast Unknown, cf. A177 Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen
32, 33, 35, 56, or 57 The Graces Listening to Cupid’s Song, plaster cast Presumably identical to A602 Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen
32, 33, 35, 56, or 57 The Dance of the Muses on Helicon, plaster cast Unknown, cf. A341 Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen
32, 33, 35, 56, or 57 Minerva, Truth and Lie, plaster cast Unknown, cf. A600 Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen
32, 33, 35, 56, or 57 Monument to Auguste Böhmer, plaster cast Unknown, cf. A614,1 Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen
32, 33, 35, 56, or 57 Monument to Auguste Böhmer, plaster cast Unknown, cf. A614,2 Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen
32, 33, 35, 56, or 57 Monument to Auguste Böhmer, plaster cast Unknown, cf. A614,3 Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen
32, 33, 35, 56, or 57 Nessus and Deianira, plaster cast Unknown, cf. A481 Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen
32, 33, 35, 56, or 57 Cupid by Anacreon, Winter, plaster cast Presumably identical to A415 Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen
32, 33, 35, 56, or 57 Mercury brings Bacchus to Ino, plaster cast Unknown, presumably cf. A347 Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen
32, 33, 35, 56, or 57 Unidentified monument, plaster cast Unknown Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen

For private individuals

Crate no. Artwork, Material Owner Previous Owner
11 Henrik Hielmstierne, marble version The Royal Library of Denmark, cf. A210 Agnete Marie Rosencrone
44 Caritas, marble version Church of Our Lady, Copenhagen, cf. A598 The seven children of Hans Henrik Gunnerus
45 Night, marble version The Church of Holmen, Copenhagen, cf. A901 Jørgen Conrad de Falsen
46 Unknown reworking of The Genius of Death, marble version Unknown Jørgen Conrad de Falsen
47 Conrad Rantzau, marble version Breitenburg Castle, Holstein, cf. A211 Conrad Rantzau
48 Cupid with the Lyre, marble version Presumably Mežotne Palace, Bauska, Latvia, cf. A786 Conrad Rantzau
49 C. W. Eckersberg, marble version A788 C. W. Eckersberg
49 Jacob Baden, marble version A863 The heirs of Jacob Baden
50 Private items Unknown Just Mathias Thiele
51 Private items Unknown Just Mathias Thiele
52 Multiple sheets of the Italian graphic artist Luigi Rossini’s (1790-1857) graphic series of panoramas of Rome, Le antichità romane ossia raccolta delle più interessanti vedute di Roma antica [Roman Antiquities, or a Collection of the Most Interesting Views of Ancient Rome] Unknown Johan Gunder Adler
60 Private items Unknown J. L. Lund
61 Private items Unknown J. L. Lund
58 Private items Unknown “Madamme Capot”, presumably belonging to the widow of Johan Herman Cabott, namely, Maria Gertruda Pericoli

References

  • H. Degenkolv: Oplysninger vedrørende den danske Flaades Skibe i sidste Aarhundrede, Copenhagen 1906, p. 30.
  • Ejner Johansson: ‘At tegne gips efter Thorvaldsen’, in: Meddelelser fra Thorvaldsens Museum, 2001, p. 139-153.
  • F. Meldahl: Kunstudstillingerne ved Det Kongelige Akademie for de Skjønne Kunster, Copenhagen 1906, p. 58.
  • Just Mathias Thiele III: Thorvaldsen i Rom. 1819-1839, Copenhagen 1854, p. 223, pp. 251-54.
  • Frederik Weilbach: ‘C.F. Hansens Christiansborg, af Slotsbygningskommissionens Papirer’, Fra Arkiv og Museum, serie 2, bind 2, hefte 2-3, Copenhagen 1935, p. 130.

Works referred to

A317 A318 A319 A320 A859 A860 A857 A194 A199 A201 A202 A223 A197 A716 A279 A22 A28 A12 A5 A39 A173 A45 A41 A177 A602 A341 A600 A614_2 A614_1 A614_3 A481 A415 A347 A210 A598 A901 A615_1 A211 A786 A788 A863

Last updated 08.02.2017