The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

Comment on Shifting of Attributes - a Fundamental Feature in Thorvaldsen

There were numerous points of overlap between Thorvaldsen and Moritz. For example, the sculptor owned Moritz’s famous Götterlehre oder mythologische Dichtungen der Alten, Berlin 1791, which is still found in Thorvaldsen’s book collection, M462. The book is signed B. Thorvaldsen on the title page, and bears visible marks of use. The myth of Hercules and Omphale is mentioned briefly on p. 250, but entirely in the traditional manner, with no attribute-critical distance. Amusingly, the page opposite p. 250 has a tear in it—clearly indicating that this page was once read.

Such philological minutiae, however, should not mislead the reader into believing that the present aim is to prove that Thorvaldsen did indeed read Moritz. That, of course, cannot be established securely, however likely it may be. The goal here is simply to point out that a theorist of aesthetics in Berlin and a sculptor in Copenhagen both formulated, more or less simultaneously, the same period-typical standpoint in aesthetic theory, each in his own way. Viewed from historical distance, it is this coincidence that is worth focusing on, rather than on who actually introduced this standpoint to whom, or who may or may not in fact have been influenced by whom.

Last updated 20.03.2015